While the initial in-shelter recommendations were short term, we are now realizing that the recommendations will extend through April and possibly longer. Non-essential businesses such as gyms are closed just at a time when they feel most essential to our emotional and physical well-being!
Exercise is one of the key lifestyle behaviors known to reduce risk of chronic diseases such diabetes, renal disease, and heart disease which pose added risk under COVID-19 infection. Even small changes to improve lifestyle work quickly to yield both acute immunity and chronic health benefits. And, one of the brightest benefits for those new to exercise and exercise aficionados alike is decreased feelings of stress and an improved sense of well-being, which we all need more than ever!
Many of you may be wondering:
- What if I am feeling sick?
- Will exercise lessen my risk of acquiring or defeating COVID-19 infection?
- What kind of exercise should I do?
- How do I stay motivated?
Whereas light exercise is okay if you have mild upper respiratory symptoms, if you experience a fever, cough, muscle aches, or shortness of breath, discontinue exercise and contact your healthcare provider. If you are feeling well and are already a regular exerciser, be aware that high intensity exercise can suppress immune function, whereas moderate intensity exercise can improve immune function.
Here are our best tips to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans of 150-300 minutes per week of moderately intense physical activity and 2 sessions per week of resistance training:
- Make use of what you have. Consider stair climbing, sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit using a chair to balance, and set a timer to stand and walk for at least 5 minutes on the hour.
- Learn some new moves. If you like structured workouts, exercise to music, Yoga, or Tai Chi, look to the vast collections of on-line exercise videos available through the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
- Make your outdoor space beautiful. Gardening and yard work can help you reconnect with nature.
- Keep an exercise journal. Record and celebrate new or established exercise habits. Connect with a virtual exercise buddy and work out at the same time.
- Stay fit with retired or new home gym equipment. Dust off that bike in your garage and bring it back inside! If stationary biking is new to you, here are some basic tips on seat height, resistance, and revolutions per minute (RPM) to get started:
- Standing next to the bike, adjust the seat to the level of your hip. Exercising with the seat in too low of a position can aggravate knees.
- Begin pedaling and watch the position of your leg as you near the bottom. You want a slight bend in your knee as you extend your leg.
- Start with a manual program option. Keep a cadence of 60 or more RPM at minimal resistance for 5 minutes and then increase the resistance setting while keeping a stable RPM. Adjust resistance to achieve a sense of exertion of 6 on a 10-point scale.
- To advance, consider downloading a Peloton or another spin bike phone app.
- Start resistance training, a perfect in-shelter activity. Exercise bands, hand weights, or even cans of food in your pantry are great ways to tone and strengthen muscles! Don’t have these? Then check out this routine:
- Upper body: Superman, Cobra, Modified Push-up, and Plank
- Lower body: Glute Bridge, Forward Lunge, Squat, Standing Calf Raises
- Perform each exercise in order for 30-60 seconds. If you are just getting back into exercise, allow a rest in-between. Do the circuit twice, 3 days a week, with a day of rest in between to allow for muscle recovery and building. Find the best techniques on the American Council on Exercise website along with instructional videos.