Unprecedented”, “uncharted territory”, “new normal.” These are terms that have become part of our daily lives in recent months. As challenging as life has become during the Covid-19 crisis, we are also seeing the word “resilience” becoming more prevalent. In our efforts to counteract the stress we feel under circumstances we never could have imagined; we have learned to cope in creative ways. Maintaining a fitness regimen has been particularly troublesome, with gyms closing and at-home situations being less than optimal. Given all the stressors and uncertainty we continue to face, it would seem easy to let fitness fall by the wayside.
But wait...exercise is a known stress reliever and mood enhancer! Not only that, but it can also help keep your immune system strong. There are several ways you can stay active and take advantage of all the known benefits of physical activity. Here are some suggestions. Choose one or try a few until you find what works best for you. Sticking with exercise can not only help your physical and mental well-being but can also give you a feeling of empowerment within a situation that can otherwise make you feel powerless.
Outdoor Activity: Of course, everyone’s go-to is walking. Walking is great, but when everyone is out all at once, that makes safety an issue. I have tried going out later in the evening or very early in the morning, and that has helped. If you are out in a crowd, wear a mask, keep your distance, and stay home if you feel ill. Same goes for running or biking. And make sure you obey local ordinances regarding park and trail closures (and more recently, curfews). Lately, I have been “distance” walking with a friend and both of us wear masks and are able to get that much needed social contact.
Home Exercise Equipment: If you have room in your home, invest in a simple treadmill (you don’t need a fancy one with bells and whistles) or a stationary cycle. Resistance bands can serve you well at any time. Bodyweight resistance tools such as a “TRX” are designed to be used at home, and instructional videos are available online.
Online Exercise Classes: Gyms and studios had to quickly adapt once they had to physically close. Many are offering online classes for small (and sometimes no) fees. Personal trainers are also training clients online using Zoom or other web tools. Some community based organizations such as the YMCA are offering free classes for adults and kids; yoga, Pilates, strength, and even meditation, “home workouts of the day” and a YouTube channel, as well as “digital coaching” (availability is limited, check your local Y website for information).
Virtual Challenges: A motivational tool that worked for people before Covid-19 was signing-up for 5Ks, marathons, walks, etc. for charity. Many of these have moved online. I recently signed up for a running challenge to virtually run the distance of the NYC subway system. Not only are these a fun way to log your activity and an incentive to keep going, but they often benefit good causes, as this one does. Fitness trackers such as smartwatches and apps on smartphones also have fitness challenges that you can share with a community of other users to motivate each other and help each other train.
Get a Move-on: Lastly, even if you are busy with kids at home or working from home (or both), you can build activity into your daily routine by simply moving more. I just bought a standing workstation for my computer, so I don’t have to sit as much. Doing housework with a purposeful intention of moving does count, as does gardening. Community work, (delivering groceries to others, helping with clean-ups) can also count as activity if you keep moving (remember to use all safety precautions).
Staying active is an important part of staying well. And the mental benefits can help you stay strong in handling whatever may come ahead. Just remember to make it fun!
- Set a goal to be active on a set routine to create a “new normal” for yourself.
- Track your activity or join online challenges. Reward yourself with a tracker or fitness watch to keep you motivated.
- Engage with your family or co-quarantined too, particularly kids and pets.
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