Like it or not, many of us are homebound for the foreseeable future due to a looming health crisis of unpredictable magnitude. With all the priority shifts you may be making to adapt to this major disruption, working out and eating healthy may not be at the forefront of your mind. But now is a crucial time to focus more seriously on your fitness. Here are just 5 reasons why:
1. It’ll boost your immune system.
A healthy immune system won’t prevent you from catching COVID-19, but it can help you fight off the symptoms and recover faster from mild cases. Regular bouts of moderate exercise have a positive effect on the body’s immune response, including reducing inflammation and mitigating the effects of respiratory illness. That doesn’t mean you should overdo it, however; too much strenuous exercise can have the opposite effect on the body’s immune system. Your best bet is to start a regular exercise regimen that both matches your current level of fitness and allows your body to gradually adapt to the challenges of your workout routine.
2. You have your commute time back.
If you’re in the position to telework, that means you’re not doing the roughly 50-minute roundtrip commute the average American does every workday. Instead of using that extra time to sit on the couch or panic read Coronavirus articles, do something your body will thank you for and use the time to exercise instead. Replacing even 30 minutes of your normal weekday commute time will net you the 150 minutes of weekly exercise recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
3. It’ll ease your anxiety and help pass the time.
Speaking of panic, studies show that exercise positively impacts the body’s physiological and psychological mechanisms in ways that reduce anxiety and lowers stress response, both of which will come in handy as you’re sheltering in place, working from home, and managing homeschooling for your young ones. Also, we honestly have no idea how long we’re going to be hunkered down in our homes while we ride out COVID-19, but you can only binge watch so many shows on Netflix while you’re waiting it out. With almost all public amenities closed or closing, passing the time by getting stronger, fitter, and leaner will result in a host of positive outcomes and make for an overall less stressful few weeks.
4. You’ll have more control over what you eat.
The number of states that have closed restaurants and/or bars completely or for dine-in service is up to 20 and counting. That means that you’ll be spending more time preparing meals at home with more control over exactly what goes into your body on a daily basis. Now is the time to start incorporating better nutrition principles into your daily diet, like eating more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains and eating less processed foods, saturated fats, and simple sugars.
5. You’ll be better positioned to turn it into a long-term habit.
Starting your fitness routine with fewer distractions from your busy everyday life is frankly easier than doing it the other way around. With a few weeks of progress under your belt, you’ll be more motivated to and effective at keeping the habit going when you add back in work commute, school drop offs, evening activities, and social commitments. Use this time to set the foundation for a new lifestyle, then layer the temporarily paused elements of your daily routine on top of it once things return to normal.
Now that you know why you should start or recommit to your fitness routine now, here are some tips to help get you started:
Go online. Choose an online workout, dance class, or even an exercise game. There are tons of options from Amazon Prime to online workouts being offered by local gyms and virtual trainers. You can do most streaming workouts at home with minimal equipment or space and they often vary with respect to fitness level and time commitment. Find one that works for you and make a goal to stick with it at least 4 or 5 days a week.
Set aside dedicated time. If you’re used to working from an office during the day, working from home can feel like huge decrease in the structure you typically use to manage and organize your time, making it easier to put off your workouts throughout the day until it it’s too late to get it done. Set aside a specific time, maybe first thing in the morning or during a telework lunch break, and make a commitment to keep that meeting with yourself as if it were a business meeting with colleagues.
Include the kiddos. Children make excellent workout partners and coaches. Find a workout with movements easy enough that they can do or mimic to help work off their pent-up energy as well. Alternatively, you could give them a motivational role by asking them to time you or count your reps. You can also give them a challenge they can do while you’re working out, like seeing how many butterflies they can draw before your burpee circuit is done or play counting games during your rest periods. The possibilities for bonding, motivation, and modeling healthy habits are endless.
Broaden your horizons. Learning a new activity can help provide enough stimulus to keep boredom at bay. If you’ve never tried Pilates, kickboxing, or HIIT workouts, there’s no reason not to test out something new and see if you want to keep it in your fitness repertoire. If your gym time typically consists of a half hour on a cardio machine, you might feel a little hesitant at first in adapting to workouts you can do at home, but make sure you research proper form and training technique to incorporate a variety of exercises and workout styles to help you get in top shape.
Use these tips to make staying fit, safe, and calm while sheltering in place a priority and an easily attainable goal!