Top tips on staying fit and healthy at home during COVID-19: Niamh Branigan, NB Dance Fitness


It’s normal to be worried or to feel stressed during this difficult time, but there are many things we can do to help us mind our mental health and wellbeing. Your normal exercise routine is bound to have been severely impacted during this transition in life so its important, more than ever, to make an effort to create some sort of routine with your eating, self care and exercise along with work. The demands of entertaining and educating kids will also have taken a strain on some of you but remember you can only be your best self for them if you are looking after yourself first. Being active can help you deal with anxiety and stress and getting outdoors, if you can, is really important.

Here’s where NB Dance Fitness comes in. For the first two weeks of lockdown I did absolutely nothing, which was completely fine, I gave myself the time to stop and take a breath from the franticness of life but then it got to a stage where I could barely get out of bed in the mornings being weighed down by the realities of what was happening in the world. Coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be acting again for a long time and the realisation that this wont be over any time soon, I thought to myself what can I do that makes me and other people feel good and would be another form of expression and creativity that acting gave me.

I trained as a Zumba instructor in 2016 and had been teaching on and off for years in London in between acting, waitressing and working for Irish Film London. So I decided to use what I know and adapt it to be available for people during the times we’re in. It’s an hour long class on Zoom that is a series of dance routines with repeated moves throughout. Every week we do the same routines so that each time you take the class you gain more confidence with the moves and can push yourself more and more. Its main focus is just about getting up and moving from the comfort of your own home. The instructor will be the biggest person on the screen so you can literally dance like nobody is watching! I always say listen to your body, take it at your own pace, enjoy the music and even if you’re not a fan of what I’m doing as long as you’re moving free styling is highly encouraged. A simple first step that I found useful is getting up and getting dressed straight away helped me to start my day on a positive note. It’s very easy to stay in your PJ’s, have your breakfast and lounge around for hours. Lounging is absolutely fine but doing it in clothes you’ve picked out for the day will feel even more satisfying, this goes for working also, of course it’s a treat to not have to wear work attire in our own homes but we can still feel professional and productive in clothes for around the house.

Have a good breakfast to start the day. Sometimes during our previous busy lifestyle, breakfast would be the last of our priorities, getting a seat on the tube would definitely take over importance! But now we have the time to be good to ourselves and eat well. Apart from providing us with energy, breakfast foods are good sources of important nutrients such as calcium, iron and B vitamins as well as protein and fibre. The body needs these essential nutrients and research shows that if these are missed at breakfast, they are less likely to be compensated for later in the day aka less snacking! Eggs are a wonderful inexpensive, high-quality source of protein and can be done in so many different ways. They are rice sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, Iron and copper.

When working at home we’re less inclined to give ourselves regular breaks. This is still very important during a work day. You can even use this opportunity to set yourself work goals. For example if you get a certain amount done or finished you will give yourself time to go for a walk in a nearby park, make a lovely coffee and sit in the garden or give a friend a ring to see how they’re getting on.

Physical exercise
Let’s be realistic, it’s very rare that we truly enjoyed going to the gym all those mornings before work or dark evenings after a long day. Now is the time to do it leisurely and at your own pace and in a way that you enjoy. There is so much to be said for a good paced walk or a light jog with fabulous music or an interesting podcast playing in your ears. NB Dance Fitness strives to give you a good workout without even realising it. We’re always unaware to how many calories we’re burning when we’re on the dance floor so why not incorporate that as our physical exercise for the day! Why dancing you might ask?

improves the condition of your heart and lungs

increases muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness

increases aerobic fitness

improves muscle tone and strength

weight management

stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis

better coordination, agility and flexibility

improves balance and spatial awareness

increases physical confidence

improves mental functioning

improves general and psychological wellbeing

greater self-confidence and self-esteem

Ditch your comfort zone. I don’t believe in the statement “can’t dance” everyone can move, and the great thing about NB Dance Fitness Zoom Classes is that doesn’t matter whether you’re in time or not, as long as you’re moving, getting your blood flowing and enjoying the music that’s the aim of the game. I’ve choreographed the routines in my class to work on everything from our legs, bums, tums and arms leaving us feeling fitter and stronger.

Mental Health
It’s very important to remember that unfortunately we cannot control everything that is going on in the world we can only control how we react and feel. Keep remembering that it’s okay if today wasn’t your favourite, tomorrow is a new one. Take time for yourself, take an hour to dance, to sit, to read, to meditate or to binge watch a series and don’t feel guilty about it!

Guest blog by Niamh Branigan, NB Dance Fitness

As seen on RTÉ ‘Fair City’ & The Gate Stage production of Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper. NB Dance Fitness also had a segment on Ireland AM which you can watch here.   

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