How exercise brought us together during COVID-19

The story of how the pandemic helped one family reconnect during self-isolation as they focused on their health, wellbeing and each other. (Image source: the Lange family)

By Tyler Powell

As a mother-of-five, Cassie Lange’s life is a never-ending schedule of drop offs and pickups. Whether it’s school, sporting practices and matches for the children, and gym visits for herself and her husband, there is rarely a moment spare in which to pause and reflect for this active family.

Cassie said this is why it was a new and somewhat difficult experience for her family to adjust during the heavy COVID restriction period in South Australia earlier this year.

Having to isolate with her husband and five children in their home in Mount Osmond, located in the foothills of South Australia’s Adelaide Hills region, was not ideal for the usually busy family. However, it did give them the opportunity to take the foot off the accelerator somewhat, and focus on health, wellbeing and each other.

“It was certainly a new experience for us as a family, given the kids needed to be home schooled and each day we were looking for things to keep them entertained especially when my husband was working from home,” Mrs Lange said.

“The isolation period actually gave me less time to get housework done as I constantly had the five kids at home, keeping me busy.

“Whereas I would usually pay my Mum to come and clean the house once a week while the kids are at school but because we were isolating, I was unable to continue doing that.”

Although she and her family found the experience to be unfamiliar and challenging, Mrs Lange strongly believes there has been a silver lining to the pandemic, especially when it comes to being active.

“I enjoyed being able to exercise with the family, as we don’t normally get the chance to do so with my husband working a lot and I’m always busy with sport and the kids,” Mrs Lange said.

With five children, she said it can be very busy trying to keep up all of their sporting activities, as well as schooling and getting to places on time.

With Mrs Lange being a stay at home Mum and her husband working full time, she is often the one to pick them up from school and head straight to sport practice from there.

“My husband Ben helps out when he can but I’m usually the one rushing around with the kids getting the girls from tennis to netball and then getting the boys to Auskick football in between, which can be quite stressful,” Mrs Lange said.

“Having five kids that range from three to 14 years-of-age makes it hard, as most of their sport is at different locations, times or days and then I still have my own netball training to attend.

“Being at home and being able to exercise when I wanted and how I wanted to was great, along with the fact that we didn’t have to go anywhere after school or on weekends.”

Although her normal gym routine was impacted and soon became online Zoom sessions, Mrs Lange and her family made the most of their time going for daily walks and participating in online exercise sessions as a whole family.

“I also got my older daughters running with me which they had never done before, and even my husband and I got to exercise together when we would normally be going to the gym at separate times,” she said.

“It was actually a really great time for us to be together as a family and to get out and about exercising.”

Mrs Lange’s eldest daughter, Macey, said she looked forward to going for a walk each day and exploring a different track to the previous day.

“We were always exploring different tracks and some of them were quite hard but it was fun and we were able to take our dog Clifford with us to give him some exercise as well,” Macey said.

Mrs Lange said frequent exercise is important to her as it improves her mental health and that of her family.

“After having five kids, I feel that I need an hour of exercise each day to get rid of my stress and feel better about myself,” she said.

“I also like the idea of the kids being active and being outside to learn from exploring, rather than sitting inside on their devices.”

The Lange family switched from hectic drop offs at sporting activities to exercising together.

Doctor Kosala Abeysundera, from the Hamley Bridge Medical Centre in South Australia’s mid north region, said exercise plays an important role in health.

Doctor Abeysundera, who has been a GP for 17 years, said exercise helps to improve immunity and prevent the body from acquiring infections, which  is more important than ever during the current pandemic.

“Exercise and outdoor activities also help one’s mental health and the prevention of depression and anxiety which may be associated with isolation and uncertainty during the pandemic,” he said.

“However, exercising in crowded places, such as gyms, can negatively affect the spread of respiratory infections like COVID-19.”

Doctor Abeysundera suggested walking, gardening or home-based exercises as good exercise options, however urged people to see their health practitioner for treatment or advice regarding all aspects of physical and mental health.

Personal trainer Rachel Tearle from Plus Fitness Gawler, located in the northern Adelaide metropolitan area, said staying fit and healthy is ideal in any situation, especially when there is a virus going around.

“Healthier lifestyles will promote better recovery and stronger immune systems,” she said.

Even when the gym was closed for approximately three months due to COVID restrictions, Miss Tearle still exercised every day, knowing just how important it is to maintain a positive health and exercise routine.

She also went out of her way to help others do the same during the closure of gym facilities.

“I created online, follow-along videos for both my clients and non-clients to work out to,” Miss Tearle said

“A lot of people struggle with their mental health being cooped up at home and exercising can help produce serotonin to allow people to feel better mentally.”

During the gym closure, Miss Tearle was out of a job, but was fortunately eligible for JobKeeper payments and tried to think of the positives.

“I tried to look at it as some time off rather than having lost my job, and I’m a very positive person so I wasn’t worried about my job, because I know I will always have my Personal Trainer certificate,” she said.

Miss Tearle recommended setting both physical and mental goals to help keep people on track, particularly during trying times

“With small goals each week comes greater achievements,” she said.

For Mrs Lange and her family, both school and sport are now back on with some restrictions remaining in place.

She is hopeful to soon see further easing of restrictions.

“I would like to hope that there is no second wave of the virus in South Australia and that we can continue to get back to normal with school and sport,” Mrs Lange said.

This story was originally published in The Junction.

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