College of DuPage Breden Gibson wrote for Healthy Lombard that since the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily closed the doors of gyms and fitness centers, many of us have had to look into new approaches on how to incorporate exercise into our weekly routines. During this time of extreme uncertainty, exercise has fallen behind other primary issues for many of us. However, it is important that we make our health and wellness a priority. Exercise is medicine and ultimately positively affects both our physical and mental health.
Quarantine has caused us to adjust our lives mainly to a chair and computer screen at home, which has created a more sedentary lifestyle. Engaging in regular exercise helps break up that slow routine and can prevent many health conditions and diseases. Perhaps one of the biggest struggles during quarantine is weight management. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), regular exercise is beneficial in maintaining current weight in addition to preventing excess weight gain. An article by the CDC reports that regular exercise promotes heart health and builds muscle and bone density and therefore, prevents the development of health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis. Finally, exercise has also been linked with boosting the immune system. This is especially important in attempts to keep our bodies strong and healthy during a time in which a disease exists in a society that may severely compromise our immune system.
For many, quarantine’s largest side effect has been mental health. Exercise can have immediate benefits that directly impact anxiety, depression, our mood, and sleep. The pandemic has caused depression from isolation and anxiety due to uncertainty. Exercise is a great example of a coping mechanism our body can use to help with stress and anxiety. It also acts as a distraction, which allows our minds to take a break and relax. Exercise also promotes the release of natural chemicals in the brain that aid in relieving stress, which can better our mood in depressive states.
Our daily moods often reflect our feelings from stress and anxiety. Putting our stress and frustration into motion with exercise focuses our minds and leaves us feeling calmer and clearer headed. Regular exercise can allow us to feel a sense of accomplishment and even boost our self-confidence. All the benefits from exercise stated above ultimately allow us to improve our sleep schedule. Sleep quality is usually poorer when we have higher feelings of stress and anxiety. Exercising regularly to reduce these feelings allows us to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep throughout the night.
How to stay active during COVID-19
Even though some fitness centers remain closed, exercising from home is still possible and very easy. Nuvance Health suggests various ways to stay active during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many studios are offering online workout classes that can be found with a simple search on the internet. There are also plenty of free online videos that you can follow along to with yoga or Pilates, which are fun to try with family or friends. Household chores are also a good way to get active. While it seems simple, you can feel accomplished while burning calories at the same time. Finally, one of the easiest ways to get active is to get outside. Short intervals of walking, biking, or even playing backyard games can quickly add up to full workouts. Even though this pandemic has been unpredictable and restricting, there are still many things we can control. With some adjustments, it is still possible to prioritize our health and wellness to help us get through the pandemic.