Illustrations by Hannah Robinson

Coronavirus has turned the public into lean-mean-exercising machines. I have never seen my neighbourhood so full of joggers, cyclists, walkers and even people on scooters! Some argue that this is because the gyms are closed; people have no choice but to exercise outside. But I would contest this, and say – people are exercising more, because it is our one chance a day to exert any kind of choice.

Already there is a plethora of memes about being caught ‘on your second outing of the day’. Indeed, this coronavirus, and all its consequences, have demonstrated that we hate restricted freedom, especially when it comes to interrupting their daily lives. In any case, the lockdown and its rules have actually resulted in increased fitness, and I think that perhaps the longer the lockdown continues, the more concretised the need for daily exercise will become in peoples’ routines. Until this lockdown, I had not been on a run for years. On my third day of isolation this changed, I went for a run and it was amazing; I genuinely loved it.

In this sense, we don’t appreciate our freedom until it is taken away. For years now, we have been spending hours lost in the deep depths of social media, glued to our screens. Coronavirus has confirmed that, we need to release our frustration and energy through some form of exercise, and that we need to feel like we are in control of our lives.

I had always heard that exercise was great for mental health – but it is hard to build up the motivation or even confidence to start. I suffer with mental health issues and have done for a long time. It was only this academic year that I started doing any form of exercise – I signed up to the gym – but when the gym closed, I realised how beneficial exercise really is. This may sound naïve to some or patronising to others, but in these times of uncertainty, it is important to have some kind of outlet, to counteract the loss of normality and routine. 

Similarly, to the uptake in physical activity, sociality has increased. Since opportunities to meet up in person have been taken away, we are forced to make more effort to converse with each other through alternative means and get in contact with those we don’t speak to enough.

The “Claps for Carers” to show support for the NHS stirred me. Clapping already has positive associations, but the magnitude of this moment, shared between strangers living on the same street, reinforced the idea that we are all working towards the same end goal, and all equally in admiration for the people who are most trying to get us there.

This is a virus that breaks borders, class and gender divisions. It ignores social constructs, and simply views us all as humans. This is probably why some compare it to the war; it has stirred up this sense that we really are “all in this together”. These kinds of national (and in this case global) crises remind us that while we differ in lots of ways, it is sometimes better, and more productive, to focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us.

In many ways, coronavirus has had a massive impact on daily life. However, some of these changes may create positive change going forward. We now value our freedom, know that we need daily social interaction, and echoing JFK’S words, we now know that what unites us really is stronger than what divides us.