Have you ever thought to yourself, “man, I really wish I didn’t work out this morning?” Us either.
But if you normally exercise at a gym, in group classes, on hiking or skiing trails that have since been closed, it can feel like you’ll never find a routine that gives you the same buzz under present limitations.
It’s critical to remember the reasons we work out anyway.
First and foremost: boost your immunity during a pandemic
Settling into a work-from-home routine may have downsides besides distractions and feelings of being trapped. Sedentary behavior increases risk of chronic diseases, including Type 2 Diabetes, hyperlipidemia (an abnormally high concentration of fat in the blood), and heart disease. Plaque buildup from Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), in turn, leads to limited oxygen reaching other cells in the body, impairing function of all systems, including the respiratory and immune systems, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
This is a recipe to exacerbate a preexisting condition, potentially increasing the likelihood of contracting or having a severe response to COVID-19: and it’s a double-edged sword. With people leading more sedentary lifestyles, we will likely begin to see more visits to the emergency room that are NOT related to the virus, detracting resources and doctor’s attention from the fight.
It’s critical, then, in the absence of a daily commute or weekly workout class, to find a way to get moving. For most healthy adults, the CDC recommends 150 hours per week (equivalent to a 30-minute workout, 5 days per week) of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, as well as muscle strengthening on two or more days per week that work all major muscle groups.
By protecting your immune system, and reducing contact with others, you can help to keep yourself and your community safe, and to allow essential workers to perform their jobs as efficiently as possible.
Second: protect ya neck!
When you exercise, you strengthen living tissue besides just your muscles. Your bones respond to training as well. Bone density peaks during your twenties; therefore exercising regularly if you are in that age bracket or older can help prevent weakening and osteoporosis. The National Institute of Health recommends weight-bearing and resistance exercise to increase bone density. Weight-bearing workouts are those that require active resistance to gravity, and fortunately include many activities that are easy to incorporate even during quarantine, like jumping jacks, squats, planks, walking, jogging, climbing stairs, and dancing. Resistance exercises can be the same as your heart-healthy muscle strengthening routine: lifting weights or using resistance bands that target all areas of your body at least twice per week.
Furthermore, making sure to retain proper posture while working from home (where we may not have access to the ergonomic setup we are used to) is a critical way to protect the musculoskeletal system. If you feel as though you are slouching while typing, Zooming, or reading; try shifting part of your workday to a standing desk or even a taller countertop in your home. And dont forget the importance of taking a break to realign your body with any of the above activities by stretching or foam rolling.
The circulatory system, composed of our lungs, lymph tissue, heart, and blood vessels works in tandem with our liver and intestines, not only to provide oxygen to the whole body, but to keep it running as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This metabolically active system supports immune function and is critical for waste removal. The elasticity of our vessels declines as we age, which can decrease their efficacy and lead to impaired functioning, especially in our limbs. Healthy eating and sufficient exercise can keep them youthful by increasing the velocity of blood flow and turbulence against the artery walls, preventing stiffness and sluggish transport.
Maintaining the plasticity of arteries reduces the risk of circulatory problems and can flush even accumulated waste and toxins from the body. As many of us are spending more time in the kitchen and on the couch, exercise can help combat arterial buildup. Combine that with a commitment to eating healthy, and you’re well on your way to an effective detox during your quarantine.
Last, but certainly not least: mental health
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry demonstrated that 30 minutes of physical exercise per day improves mental health through the reduction of anxiety, depression, and negativity. Exercise has furthermore been found to improve self-esteem, cognitive function, and alleviate symptoms of social withdrawal. By way of our hormones, exercise can reduce stress (lowering cortisol) and increase our pain tolerance (raising endorphins, our natural analgesics). Mood balancing frees up energy for productivity and positivity in a time when trust in our own resilience is paramount.
Beyond chemical changes, maintaining the level of overall fitness that keeps you aligned with your goals and lifestyle prior to the quarantine can help you feel stronger, as well as help you to transition more easily, both physiologically and mentally, through whatever other changes we see in the coming weeks and months.
Other benefits of regular exercise that are especially critical are improved sleep and libido, increased energy, stamina, and mental alertness. Exercise can take many different forms and degrees of intensity. No matter your age or fitness level, taking the time to move your body is the best bet to stay healthy. You’ll never regret doing it–only not doing it sooner.
Visit us on Instagram @drlanawellness to view some options for indoor resistance and weight training workouts, and our other blog posts for restorative yoga. Many local studios also are making some of their programs (especially yoga, barre, and meditation) available online during this time: support the businesses that you want to return to when they reopen, and donate if you have the means.