I’ve now officially been working from home for 15 months. Like many people, initially I embraced the extra free time that working from home gave me; during the first lockdown my activity levels were the best they had ever been. I was spinning each morning as a mock commute, following online yoga classes and using resistance bands to grow stronger. But winter came and with that my mood and motivation plummeted. I’d been stuck in a very big sedentary rut since January – starting the year off in another lockdown is not what my mental health needed. Averaging around 4,000 steps per day I knew I needed to re-calibrate.

I had taken part in Step Count Challenges before, so when an email arrived in my inbox from Paths for All in April I knew this would be an excellent way to get myself moving. And indeed it certainly has!

There is something to be said about the power of being part ofa team and for me the biggest driver is accountability. If I sign up to a challenge, I’ll do my best to deliver – come rain, hail or shine, which ironically is a typical spring day in Scotland! Seeing how active others are inspires me to do more. 

It’s often easy to think when your to-do list runs onto a second or third page that you ‘don’t have time for anything else’ – we often feel more at ease rooted to the spot in front of the laptop. But the biggest thing I’ve learnt over the past 15 months is that we need to make more time for ourselves. I no longer have a commute, those two golden hours a day that I could disappear inside a book or listen to music to switch off is gone… or is it?!

The thing is, I had lost sight of how important it was to me to disconnect from my work. It’s hard to separate working time from free time when you’re working from home. Now I see walking as my time to remove myself from daily stressors, catch up with a friend on the phone or let my mind wander off as I take in beautiful surroundings (cherry blossom tree spotting is often on my agenda!). I’ve recently become a podcast convert, indulging in Atlas Obscura Podcast and Brain Snacks UK on my evening walks. It’s also really important that we stop accruing our annual leave – use it up! Even if we are restricted to staying at home and not venturing far on our ‘holidays’ we still need that separation time from the daily grind. 

As we enter the half-way point in the Step Count Challenge I feel much more productive during the day and best of all I’m grateful to have been re-united with my colleagues as we climb the Step Count leaderboard together. 

Morale is up, and so are our umbrellas! 

Dr Suzanne Zaremba 

Lecturer in Nutrition at the University of Dundee & Fellow of the SCPN