The ongoing stress, uncertainty and life upheaval of a global pandemic certainly can feel overwhelming – particularly over time. Constant cancellations, schedule disruptions and emotional roller coasters can make it challenging to stick to any type of routine.
And yet, now perhaps more than ever, you should be exercising regularly. You might have to get creative if your gym is still closed or you’re not ready to return, or if you don’t have fitness equipment at home. The good news is there are lots of options today for workouts, with virtual streaming and on-demand classes, outdoor group sessions and running, walking, biking, swimming and more.
Why is exercise so important currently, as we deal with a pandemic? Self-care is particularly critical at such an unprecedented time, and one thing that we can control during a continually changing season. Exercise is medicine, and one of the most accessible, affordable and powerful options available.
Any amount of time counts, but experts recommend approximately 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise a week, along with strength training at least twice weekly. But don’t let that deter you if it feels too daunting right now – any activity is better than none at all.
Consider some of the benefits of exercise during COVID-19.
Benefits of Exercise During COVID-19
The benefits of exercise have remained consistent, but what has significantly changed is the environment we are currently living in, which makes these benefits even more valuable. Regular physical activity is proven to improve physical and mental health, both of which may be negatively impacted due to life changes because of the pandemic.
Because of quarantines, work from home (WFH) orders, Netflix binges and limited gym access, many of us have been sitting way too much. Research shows that exercise benefits physical health in multiple ways, including:
- Improves stamina – Provides greater endurance to overcome exhaustion
- Increases energy – Makes it easier to power through long days of WFH and home schooling
- Promotes balance and flexibility – This contributes to ease of performing activities of daily living and just feeling physically better overall
- Heightens immunity – Enhances the body’s natural defense systems to ward off bacterial infections and viruses, like coronavirus, colds and the flu
- Reduces risk of common diseases – Helps decrease susceptibility to conditions that contribute to the severity of COVID-19, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer and chronic lung disease
- Enhances sleep – With all the stress of COVID-19, many people are having difficulty sleeping, which hinders productivity and can cause irritability and impatience
- Boosts longevity – Regular exercisers tend to live longer, likely due to many of the benefits listed above
Chronic stress, insecurity and social isolation from the pandemic have increased worry, anxiety, depression and fear; impaired mental focus and led to loneliness and feeling defeated. Exercise can be a powerful antidote, as studies indicate that it:
- Alleviates anxiety and depression – Exercise alters body chemistry by stimulating the release of endorphins
- Strengthens self-efficacy and confidence – Workouts empower people and help them feel better about their abilities
- Serves as a distraction – Physical activity can be a welcome escape from the challenging realities of today, and is much healthier than alcohol or other substances
- Provides a social outlet – Whether socially-distant, in-person or via a livestream session, sweat sessions offer community and connection, which are vitally important now
- Improves focus, memory and executive function – Makes it easier to multitask, concentrate and ignore distractions – abilities we need even more now
- Offers a new hobby – With limited entertainment opportunities and many people out of work, exercise is an active, healthy way of spending extra time