Just what the Doctor ordered
June 16, 2020
Dr Craig Sheridan in fron of Accident and Emergency centre at Ipswich Hospital



I’m writing this today having just spent the last two weeks on annual leave, at home, in my house, with my immediate family.

Having spent the past few months working extra hours in general practice and emergency medicine, I could feel that a break was needed but was sceptical about how refreshing leave in lockdown would feel, not least because I would be switching from doctor to primary school teacher for a large part of my day!

As a backdrop to this holiday is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused enormous disruption to the way we live our lives.

In the UK alone, thousands of people have died as a direct result of this infection and thousands more will suffer as an indirect consequence due to inevitable delays in providing healthcare for other illnesses. Then there are of course the economic and educational impacts of this pandemic that are harder to measure and have far-reaching consequences.

I have seen these problems first-hand working in the hospital.

And, like other parents, I have felt the emotions of taking my children away from school and away from their friends.

But I have also seen many positives changes occurring during the pandemic. The lockdown has forced many of us to break free of our hectic and jam-packed schedules. Our daily commutes have been dramatically cut. Long drives and train connections have been replaced by a short work to the bathroom, before grabbing a coffee in the kitchen and sitting down in the study, garden or bedroom that now doubles as the home office.

Busy school runs are a thing of the past, even for those like me, who have needed to use the keyworker scheme a few days per week, as there are now so few cars on the road compared to life before lockdown. Gyms, clubs and afterschool activities have all ceased to exist, freeing up time, which for many of us was at a premium. So, what have we all been doing with this newfound time and was I able to make good use of it during my break?

child in water swimming
Child about to swim in river
Dr Craig Sheridan exercising on his patio

For me and my children, I tried to make daily exercise a big part of this holiday. Dog walks, swimming in the sea, jogging, cycle rides, make-shift circuit training using medical textbooks and garden tools have all featured at least once each day of my annual leave. We know the physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise can be huge and this is as true for children as it is for adults, so it was important for me that we did at least a little, every day.

I’m pleased to say that my family don’t appear to be the exception here either. The latest data from Sport England revealed that children’s physical activity levels are showing positive signs of improvement during the lockdown. More than 1 in 5 children now do more than an hour of physical activity per day (the amount advised by the Chief Medical Officer) compared to under 1 in 6 in week one of lockdown. And, in the same period, the number of children doing no exercise/activity has fallen too.

This was by no means a traditionally relaxing holiday but I do feel refreshed and I know it was helped, perhaps counterintuitively but in no small part by staying active every day.

Remember, exercise can take many shapes and forms and can and should be accessible to all and the #KeepMovingSuffolk campaign is designed to support you and your family in this goal.

Craig Sheridan

GP & Specialty Registrar in Sports and Exercise Medicine
MBChB BSc (Hons) MRCGP (2013) MSc dip SEM (Distinction) MFSEM (UK)
Public Health Suffolk

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