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Physical Health and Wellbeing

It is very important to take care of our physical health during the Coronavirus Pandemic. By doing the follow steps we can reduce the spread of the virus and take care of ourselves:
  • Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds each time
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your cough or sneeze by using your elbow or a tissue
  • Practice social distancing
No Smoking Day

No Smoking Day, which takes place on the second Wednesday in March, is an annual health awareness day intended to help smokers who want to quit smoking. Each year, the campaign is promoted with a theme in the form of a short phrase. In 2021 it is 10th March. Research conducted by GfK NOP following the 2009 campaign found that 1 in 10 smokers quit on No Smoking Day.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Even if you’ve smoked for years, quitting will still reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases. It’s never too late to quit. You might notice benefits sooner than you think:

  • 20 minutes after you quit smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal.
  • After 2–3 days your sense of smell and taste improve.
  • After 2–12 weeks exercise becomes easier and your breathing improves.
  • After 1 year your risk of having a heart attack is half that of a smoker.

For more information see:

Can we improve our immune system?

Our incredible immune system is not one thing but a system that requires balance and harmony to be most effective. Researchers are still exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response. In the meantime, general healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving our immune system a boost.

Every part of our body, including our immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently.
  • Try to minimise stress.

As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, which in turn contributes to more infections such as respiratory infections, influenza, the COVID-19 virus, pneumonia, and other conditions. Vaccinations for influenza have significantly lowered the rates of sickness and death in older people when compared with no vaccination.

For information on the COVID-19 vaccination programme in NI see:

Stress and Immune Function

More constant and frequent stressors known as chronic stress, such as living through a pandemic with all its uncertainties, may take a toll on the immune system. Research published in September 2020 by the Mental Health Foundation found that in the UK:

  • 64% of people said they were coping well with the stress of the pandemic. However, many reported that they were struggling with the current crisis.
  • Of those who had experienced stress due to the pandemic, almost nine out of ten (87%) were using at least one coping strategy.
  • Coping strategies most often included going for a walk, spending time in green spaces, and staying connected with others.
  • Some people were resorting to potentially harmful ways of coping, including increased alcohol consumption, substance misuse, and over-eating, putting their mental and physical health at greater risk.

The HSCNI have made available the Stress Control classes as a live-stream until March, free-of-charge. All you need to successfully complete this class is to watch each of the six sessions, read the booklets and use the relaxation and mindfulness. You can find the sessions on YouTube or at this link:

Exercise and Immunity

Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. But remember to take your exercise in a COVID secure way!

The NHS Fitness Studio has a range of online exercise videos lasting from 10 to 45 minutes. You can take your pick from 24 instructor-led videos created by fitness experts to tone your abs, raise your heart rate, and tone your upper arms. You will also find workouts suitable for new mums, such as postnatal yoga, or health problems, such as Pilates for back pain. Plus, there’s the Wake up! workout, Vinyasa flow yoga, and Belly dancing for beginners to get you moving. See:

Cold and Flu Season

As we come into the winter months, colds and flu will be more common. Exposure to moderate cold temperatures doesn’t increase your susceptibility to infection. There are two reasons why winter is “cold and flu season.” In the winter, people spend more time indoors, in closer contact with other people who can pass on their germs. Also, the influenza virus stays airborne longer when air is cold and less humid. How do you tell the difference between cold, flu and COVID-19? See:

Now more than ever, it’s important we all do what we can to boost our immune systems. The single best step we can take is to practice a healthy lifestyle. That means:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
  • Try to minimise stress.

As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, which in turn makes us more susceptible to infections. Vaccinations for influenza have significantly lowered the rates of sickness in older people when compared with no vaccination. If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs, taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may bring other health benefits, beyond any possibly beneficial effects on the immune system.


Complementary therapies span a wide range of interventions but here at Brooke House we specialise in massage, including Indian head massage, and reflexology.

September 21st to the 27th is World Reflexology Week – every year, in the last week of September, reflexologists around the world organise events to promote awareness. Reflexology is basically a study of how one part of the human body relates to another part of the body. Reflexology practitioners rely on the reflexes map of the feet and hands and how they relate to all the internal organs and other human body parts. They believe that by applying the appropriate pressure and massage to certain spots on the feet and hands, other body parts can be energised and rejuvenated. Due to its non-invasive, non-pharmacological complementary nature, reflexology is widely accepted and there is anecdotal evidence of positive effects. The research shows some evidence that reflexology may help to reduce stress, reduce pain, lift mood, and improve general well-being.

National Fitness Day

National Fitness Day, 23rd September 2020, is a chance to highlight the role physical activity plays across the UK, helping raise awareness of its importance in helping us all to lead healthier and active lifestyles.

A huge range of activity options are offered for participants of all ages, such as ‘plank offs’, yoga and Pilates classes, treadmill challenges, high-street high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, classes, dance-offs, mass walks and many more. See:

Physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. It can help strengthen muscles, bones, and joints, and keep the body mobile and more flexible. All these things reduce the risk of injury. It improves cardiovascular fitness, lowers blood pressure, increases bone density (thereby reducing the impact of osteoporosis and helping prevent bone breakages after falls), prevents or reduces obesity, helps lower blood glucose levels (relevant for Type 2 diabetes), helps strengthen the core or postural muscles and mobilises the spine, keeping it flexible and alleviating back pain.  Exercise can also give a sense of satisfaction and self-esteem, relieve tension and stress, build friendships with other members of a club, group, or class, and promote a sense of belonging and a reduction in feelings of loneliness.

We all require different levels of physical fitness to fulfil our daily activities. It is recommended that adults undertake five sessions of thirty minutes activity per week. The activity should be physical enough to cause the adult to breathe more deeply and to begin to sweat. If you are interested in getting started why not try ‘Couch to 5K’:

Food and mood

For VE Day we remember the war, and weekly wartime food rations made creative cooks of everyone and there was little in the way of treats. You went to the butcher for weekly meat rations, visited the baker for your allocation of bread and so on. Some similarities with the lockdown you may think! But people now have more of an opportunity to adopt unhealthy behaviour patterns – overeating the wrong kinds of foods and drinking more. There are physiological reasons for some of these behaviours – when the body is stressed it produces too much cortisol, which makes us more likely to over-eat, particularly foods which are high in fat and sugar. The Association of UK Dietitians have written an article with hints and tips to help us eat for a healthy body and mind during the COVID-19 pandemic –

But food also affects our mood directly for instance, protein (found in lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, peas, beans, lentils etc) contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals our brain needs to regulate our thoughts and feelings. MIND, the mental health charity, has information exploring the relationship between what we eat and how we feel, including tips on how to incorporate healthy eating into our life.

Jane McClenaghan, a BANT Registered Nutritional Therapist, who ran a number of courses for us earlier this year has launched a Tuesday Teabreak where, every Tuesday morning at 10am, we can join her in her kitchen for an informal chat and catch up on all things nutrition. From planning healthy meals, to making sense of food labels and using simple ingredients in creative ways. We’re hoping to do some more work with Jane through lockdown so watch this space!


Go Outside

Get outside if you can! Make use of your windows and keep the curtains open in the day to let light in. If you have a garden, go out in it and if you don’t, you can go out once a day for a run, walk or cycle. This should be done alone or only with people you live with.

Catch some Zzz

Just like regular exercise and a healthy diet, getting enough good sleep is an essential part of looking after your health. Try to develop a good routine of getting at least 8 hours sleep every evening.


DistanceapartWhether you can exercise inside or outside at your home, the possibilities for getting active are endless! There are many different classes available on the internet from Yoga, to weightlifting, to learning to dance, there is something for all abilities.

Go walking! Walking is a great form of exercise and gets you outside. Remember to practice social distancing when out walking and only to walk alone or with other members of your household.

Check out these 10 minute workouts from the NHS Why not get everyone you live with involved to make it more fun?

The Chief Medical Officers guidelines for physical activity for Adults and Older Adults are also show great benefits to exercising on a daily basis, especially for older adults. 

REMEMBER all exercise must meet the Governments guidelines for exercising safely during the Coronavirus Pandemic:
  • Take no more than one form of exercise a day away from your home
  • Maintain a social distance of more than 2m from anyone outside your household, wherever you go
  • Exercise alone or with members of your own household
  • Take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors
  • Stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily
  • Dogs can be walked as part of a person’s daily exercise.
Why not download an app to help support your health?

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*Some apps may require in app purchases, apps taken from

Other sources of information:

For more information about the current pandemic and how to look after you health and wellbeing please check out the links below:

If you or a family member needs immediate support please contact your local GP, your GP out of hours service, or the accident and emergency department at your local hospital. Lifeline crisis response helpline 0808 808 8000 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is free to people in Northern Ireland. The Samaritans 24-hour telephone helpline on 028 9066 4422 (local call charges apply) or the national telephone:116 123 (this number is free to call) is also available.