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Get active message to improve your health

23rd September 2020 - 9:54 AM



Dr Mat Fortnam, GP at Haxby Group, says regular activity is really important for our physical and mental health. Find out how he’s using exercise to help him during this pandemic and get some hints and tips on how you can get more active too.

Exercise is important. It probably won’t need a doctor to remind you of this but it was only a matter of six months ago when restrictive measures were put in place to reduce physical exercise outside of the house to just once a day, whilst gyms were ordered to close.

Working as a doctor during this time was, at times, very challenging; endless streams of new information to digest, newer ways of working being scaled up overnight and adapted very quickly and the office attire being ditched to make way for scrubs and PPE (and lots of it!).

However, as the new ‘normal’ became reality, I started to really feel the absence of regular physical activity. Whilst the number of patient contacts remained high, I was personally temporarily unable to see patients and was doing more triage consulting via telephone and video than before, and certainly missing the 100 round steps to collect the patients from the waiting room every ten to fifteen minutes. At work, I found myself more tired, both physically and mentally and felt indecision creeping in, whilst at home I felt more distracted, unable to switch off from the endless e-mail traffic and news updates.

I started to try and get out for a walk once a day. As someone who usually lives in the fast lane, it was a challenge, but I started to realise the benefit of time to reflect and relax and process the day that had gone before. Walks were sometime replaced for runs and I soon started to gain the fitness that I had lost during the early start of the lockdown period, getting a competitive edge from timed runs using the same route using GPS technology. As measures were relaxed to unlimited exercise, I started using the bike more, cycling to work rather than driving and going for early morning rides around the local countryside, exploring and admiring the beautiful landscape that surrounded where I lived but that I previously had taken mostly for granted.

10k Haxby Group Challenge

Feeling more relaxed, focussed and fitter I decided to see if I could spread the passion for exercise and the benefits to patients and colleagues at work. It was therefore at the end of May where I launched the idea of the 10,000km challenge at Haxby Group, challenging the whole practice to see if we could walk, cycle or run (or swim) a combined 10000km in just one month, using GPS technology to log our activity on a shared group. It didn’t matter how far or how quickly this was achieved and I was thrilled to see a good uptake of the idea. I quickly learnt who the competitive types were, but it was great to see colleagues ditching the car and suddenly doing the weekend errands on foot and I managed to start cycling to work most days, and reaching new personal bests on foot even completing a half marathon in some very inclement conditions on a wet, windy Sunday in June. In June and July we reached in excess of 9000km, but couldn’t quite meet our target. Undeterred, we went again in September, reaching a total of 6000km at the time of going to press.
The gyms may be back open again, but keeping active certainly doesn’t require a membership. In creating the challenge and discussing it more in consultations to raise awareness, I hope that I have inspired a few of my colleagues and patients to continue their push to keep fit, stay active and ultimately promote their physical and mental wellbeing.  

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