Julian Assange Asylum: What Would One Year Inside Do To Your Body?

During Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's one-year asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, there have been numerous reports on his health.

But just what affect would one year's confinement can have on an individual's mind and body?

Assange admitted that there could be long-term physical problems to staying indoors for so long: "You can get rickets by not having any sunlight - it is not healthy to be in this position," he said.

We spoke to a range of experts covering fitness, mental health, nutrition and wellbeing to find out what his refuge would mean.

Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy

Mental Health And Wellbeing

Mental health and emotional wellbeing was a key concern of many of the experts that HuffPost UK Lifestyle canvassed.

According to Jo Hemmings, a media, celebrity and behavioural psychologist, Assange would have needed to adjust quickly to his unusual living conditions.

"In situations like this, people need to learn to self-regulate their emotions. In other words accept and embrace a situation in order to keep a cap on the extremes and variety of emotions and moods that he is probably feeling."

She added: "He will certainly feel a sense of frustration at his situation, as well as a lack of control, anxiety, isolation and probably boredom."

Contact with loved ones is "essential" to our wellbeing, according to clinical psychologist Dr Cecilia d'Felice.

"The material connection with people we care about and who care about us is vitally important for our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing," she told HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

"Without others to remind us to do normal things -- to laugh, let go, vent frustrations, nurture and love -- we can very quickly collapse inwards. This can lead to paranoia, distress, anger, fear and depression. It's a vicious cycle."

Physical Health

Aidan Goggins, HuffPost UK blogger and pharmacist, was concerned by the lack of exposure to natural light.

"Confinement of this kind could cause vitamin D deficiency, which will cause osteomalacia (a softening of the bones from not enough vitamin D for mineralisation)," he explained. "A mere 2-3% drop in bone mineral density increases our risk of fracture by up to 80%."

Aidan says that low levels of vitamin D can also impair the immune system, increasing the risk of cancer and autoimmune disease.

Laura Williams, diet and fitness expert, says that the vitamin D deficiency is easily can be overcome with supplements and UV lamps.


Charli Cohen, HuffPost UK blogger and personal trainer, said that prolonged confinement could affect the body in a number of ways.

"A lack of movement would cause atrophy (muscle loss) and an increase in body fat percentage," she told HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "Whether weight is lost or gained during this time would depend on nutrition but calorie needs would be much lower."

Daniel Bartlett, HuffPost UK blogger and owner of Daniel Alexandra Holistic Health and Fitness, expressed similar concerns around atrophy.

“It's similar to when an individual breaks and arm or leg, removes the cast and notices their muscles have shrunk," he explained.

"In cases of confinement, where the whole body is inactive, we could be looking at total body atrophy.”

Both Charli and Daniel agree that exercising outdoors is better for overall wellbeing -- as it boosts endorphins and oxygen levels -- but were quick to offer suggestions for how effective exercises can be achieved inside.

Here are Charli and Daniel's suggestions:

  • Strength and endurance: squat jumps, jumping lunges, burpees
  • Upper body strength: push-ups, pull-ups, dips
  • Balance and core stability: pistol squats, single-leg deadlifts and single-leg bridges
  • Core strength: crunches, Pilates

“It’s worth noting that exercising in this kind of environment requires a high level of self motivation," Daniel told HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "There is nothing, or no one, around to inspire you. Boredom could serve as inspiration, but you could very easily lose the will to exercise, as it requires a great deal of discipline."