Exercise in the time of COVID-19

Exercise during Covid-19?Physical activity is an important health habit that many can take part in and joy from.  In a time of COVID-19, exercise is still important, but it is understandably hard to balance an exercise routine in “normal” circumstances, let alone during a pandemic and social justice movements.  Some may be feeling like they have more time to exercise, others may feel that they have even less time, and some with time may have no motivation due to pandemic anxiety/stress/depression. If you feel like you’re struggling to get into the groove of your new routine, here are a few thoughts and tips as to why exercise is still important, and how to take part when you can.

Benefits of regular exercise.

The benefits of regular exercise include, but are not limited to:

  • Reducing stress.
  • Preventing weight gain or promoting weight loss.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • Improving self-esteem, and helping with feelings related to anxiety and depression.

Though exercise can’t prevent you from catching communicable diseases, it can help to fend them off.  Now, hopefully, all those things sound good on a normal day but may be extra beneficial with the added stresses and health concerns during the pandemic.  This is why it is important to keep up or get started, with regular exercise to get those benefits in what can feel like uncertain times.

Re-establishing your routine

With gyms slowly opening and implementing safety precautions, you can start back up at the gym, or always opt for alternative locations to the gym. First and foremost, get outside, when, and where you can.  Always consider the appropriate layers, sun protection, and look ahead to weather forecasts and air quality reports.  Exercising outdoors is great for walks, runs, hikes, bike rides, and more.

Another choice, if a gym sounds like too much to handle at this time, is to workout at home.  Online workouts and access to exercise via video streaming, personal video call instruction, and other virtual methods have been popular for years and increased tremendously in both popularity and availability during this period while we have been encouraged to stay at home.  Whether through YouTube, Facebook Live, Zoom, or anywhere else, you can take live or recorded classes and still get individual attention in the form of personal training.  You can also investigate free or fee-based apps and online channels. If you feel ready for in-person gym access, connect with the local gym you already have a membership to and see what they offer, or call around to new gyms to see if they are having new member specials.

Working out from home

Many of us may be on a work-from-home plan, and as such we may be sitting even more than we normally would. The short walk into and out of the building, walking down the hall to the printer, and many other small encouragements that get you up and out of your desk are no longer available to those working from small home offices.  Ease of access to work from home has also allowed many to be putting in longer hours.  Try to offset these prolonged periods of sitting and sedentary behavior.  Every hour to two, set an alarm to get up from your work station, take a lap around your living space, step outside if you can, get a refill of your drink, take an extra trek up and down the stairs, and come up with a few mobile activities to schedule into your workday. Whatever feels easy, approachable, and convenient for you to get in a few extra steps will be beneficial.

Don’t forget about small chores and work around the house, which also allows you to get activity while getting your to-do list done.  We may be going from the work desk to the couch in the evening, simply trading one screen of another, which can add more sedentary time to your day.  Instead, use those times to take a longer walk, cook dinner with no media on, or even use commercial breaks to get some stationary exercise in, such as push-ups, planks, or crunches.  Enjoy your time away from work with what brings you the most comfort and joy – just consider a few extra opportunities to keep the body moving.

The most important part of staying healthy is making sure you are taking care of yourself while still taking precautions with the pandemic in mind. Exercise is still an important part of your health routine, and there are many ways to work in movement into your day, even when your normal routine remains disrupted. With a little planning and creativity, you may find yourself moving and exercising more than ever before.

Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. Learn more here.