Coronavirus has taken a physical toll on the UK – rising death rates, long Covid, hospital waiting lists – and it has also left a deep scar on the mental health of millions.
People have not been able to say goodbye to their loved ones, shielders have been locked away from society, healthcare workers have been traumatised, and children and teenagers have been stuck at home, spending far too much time on screens away from activities, classrooms and friends.
While not everyone has had a terrible experience, the pandemic has pushed health and well-being into the centre of the national conversation. How many people have been pounding pavements on lockdown walks? How many bought a new bike? And who hasn’t heard of Joe Wicks?
There is definitely momentum for exercise and healthy eating to be prescribed by GPs on a regular basis for a range of conditions, from backache and heart disease, to anxiety and depression. It should be more than a voucher for the gym or local pool – there needs to be group participation, expert guidance and a strong motivator.
Surgeries should have relationships with all sorts of different groups specialising in everything from yoga, running, swimming and Stand Up Paddleboarding to nutrition and culinary skills.
These groups should receive investment so they can build up their provision and capacity to help those who may be reluctant or frightened to try something new.
As the NHS says, exercise is the miracle cure we’ve always had, but for too long we’ve neglected to take our recommended dose. Surely now is the time to start dishing it out.