Keeping active is crucial in boosting people’s wellbeing both physically and mentally during the coronavirus lockdown, a fitness expert has said.

Tom Milner, of Oak Activities, said Mental Health Awareness Week was a key time to highlight the positive effect regular exercise could have on keeping a person fit in both mind and body.

He said anxiety levels were bound to be heightened for most people during the lockdown and that the number of people experiencing a mental health problem - normally one in four each year - was also expected to increase.

Tom said most people were aware of the detrimental effects a prolonged period of inactivity could have on the body, such as obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions, but the impact on mental health was less well known by the public.

He said the unprecedented circumstances being faced as a result of the pandemic brought extra pressure in areas such as the effects of isolation, money issues and health worries, but regular exercise could help.

Tom said: “In my many years working in the sector, I have seen first-hand the positives exercise has on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.

“A sense of achievement through achieving a goal, weight loss, running, walking and so on, a shared experience, feeling stronger, fitter or faster, all of these contribute towards feeling positive and improving our mental wellbeing.”

Tom said: “It is at these times, when it is harder than ever to be motivated, that we will see the benefits of exercise.”

He said that a study in America showed that participants who did not exercise were much more likely to become depressed than those who exercised for at least two hours a week.

It had shown that exercising for up to an hour three or four times a week could help treat even chronic stress, with the results being noticed after about a month and that maintaining the programme for up to three months had the greatest anti-depressant effect.

Tom said that endorphins released during exercise also helped boost memory and cognitive skills, an improved body shape could heighten self-esteem and that exercise had been shown to improve sleep quality which could also reduce depression and anxiety.

He said: “Take advantage of the gyms being closed by trying new routines and exercises, go for a run around the village rather than being on a treadmill, set yourself goals and most importantly have fun!”

Oak Activities runs exercise classes across the county in communities, care homes and residential homes, with seated, standing, strength and balance classes.

Tom said: “One of the areas we specialise in is working with the over-60s, adults with additional needs and reablement.

“With the challenges of the current climate we partnered with Power2Inspire, Living Sport and Cambridgeshire Community Foundation to deliver three online exercise classes a day for an initial 12 weeks.”

Tom said they had received a “fantastic response” to classes, which were being streamed via Facebook live, with more than 35,000 views in the month since launch, and which were also available on their YouTube channel.

“Before we started the programme, we raised £500 to purchase and send equipment to those participating in the class. An amazing response from the local community,” Tom said.

Information is available at Oak Activities’ website and Facebook page, online classes are streamed through its dedicated Facebook page Keep Active with Oaks and videos are uploaded onto its YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UClbSk94g27fxUWv7_LHpSPA/