By: Adam Pounds, Owner
The COVID-19 crisis has changed everyone’s lives in unexpected ways. With self-isolation, working from home, business closures, and mental stress, the pandemic has caused many of us to change the details of our daily routines, including restrictions of our daily movements.
Believe it or not, staying active as the pandemic continues will be a key factor in your mental and physical well-being, and the health of your immune system.
Staying Physically Active During the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Countless Benefits
Many of my clients have found themselves with less time and energy since the start of the pandemic. Working from home adds additional stress on your day, and the monotony of it can affect your mental health.
That’s why it’s important to spend some time outside the home, in the fresh air, or the gym if you feel comfortable, getting your body moving after spending hours in a chair. Bouts of as little as 5-10 minutes of physical activity at least three times per day will help ease muscle strain, eye strain, release mental tension, and increase blood circulation.
Physical Activity Doesn’t Always Mean Running or Pushing Yourself
Physical activity doesn’t just mean running three miles around your neighborhood or lifting weights for an hour. Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle that requires energy expenditure. This can be as simple as climbing the stairs, gardening, cleaning your house, brisk walking, dancing, or even playing fetch with your dog.
Think about your typical workday at the office versus your typical workday at home. How far is the restroom from your desk? Do you walk outside for fresh air throughout the day? Did you bring your lunch or go out to eat with coworkers? Did you park nearby or have to walk a short distance to your building?
Ask yourself the same questions in your work-from-home environment. All of these simple daily tasks were physical activity that you may not be getting since you transitioned to working from home. These small steps added up each day, and what may have seemed like nothing at the time, could have a big impact on your well-being today.
Now, let’s talk about the benefits of physical activity
Consistent physical activity benefits both the mind and body. Though the benefits to your body may be more evident, physical activity is key to a healthy, happy mind.
Physical activity can:
- Help with weight management
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of various health concerns, such as, heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes
- Improve bone muscle and strength, increase balance, flexibility and overall fitness
- Build and maintain a healthy immune system
When it comes to mental health, physical activity can reduce the risk of depression, cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. It can also improve your overall feeling of wellbeing by boosting your confidence, making for a more positive outlook on yourself and those around you.
These mental and physical benefits can work together to make you a better friend, partner, coworker, and an all around better you.
How much physical activity do you really need?
The amount of physical activity required varies by person. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that:
- Children less than 5 years old require 180 minutes of activity per day.
- Children and teenagers ages 5-17 require at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity, at least three days per week.
- Adults aged 18 and older need at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity, including muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week.
Whatever age group you fall into, it’s easy to stay active while at home. For my adult clients, brisk walks, yoga, and light weight training can all be done at or around the home. To get more movement into your workday, reduce the amount of time you sit at your desk or in front of your computer by standing up and walking around the house every half hour. For more accountability, set up a calendar and create a routine for physical activity every day.
Carve time out of your busy schedule to get in at least an hour of activity. Why not try walking with friends or family for the extra mental health boost of interaction with others?
Any amount of physical activity in your day is better than none. If you are typically fairly sedentary, start with small amounts of activity and gradually increase your duration, frequency, and intensity overtime. Being physically active during COVID-19 may seem challenging for all of us because the opportunities to be more active seem to be more restrictive, but it doesn’t have to be.
My recommendation – make a plan, keep it fun, and watch your physical and mental health improve over time!