Exercise During a Pandemic
The extend time we are all spending at home due to SARS-CoV-2 virus and the ensuing COVID-19 illness is resulting in excess sitting and lack of exercise. However, this is a time to stand up and get moving as being in motion will improve all aspects of your health, boost your immune system, and create an environment that can better keep you virus free.
The human body, which is an evolutionary masterpiece of biological engineering, is designed to be in motion. Yet in large part, most of the hours of our lives are spent sitting. Recently, scientists have discovered that sitting is becoming a major health liability, and it is as detrimental to our health as smoking or eating poorly or any other number of less-than-healthy lifestyle choices that make us vulnerable to disease.
It is a well-accepted fact that exercise lowers your risk of cancer and other diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as leading to increased quality and quantity of life. As we are all more or less isolated in our homes, how do we make it work for ourselves.
Making it Work for You
We believe that the best coach is our own body, so listen to your body and respond to its requests and needs. If you feel strong, balanced, flexible, and confident, you’re likely on the right track. Getting aerobic exercise (elevating your heart rate) on a regular basis is important, as is keeping your muscle strength up.
Break Up Your Day with Exercise Bursts
- Use short workouts to break up your day. Three brisk 10-minute walks help to break up a long day of sitting.
- If you like to run, a series of short sprints burns more calories than a long jog.
Break Up Your Sitting Time
Based on multiple studies, we encourage you to break up your sitting time by at least standing up:
- Don’t do this once in a while, but hourly.
- Standing will feel strange at first, but stick with it. As with most habits, after your body gets used to standing up, you will start to prefer this to sitting down to do work.
- The ironing board is a great (and cheap) substitute for a standup desk at home and allows you to spread out your work.
- Try standing when you watch television or shows on your computer.
- Consider buying a lightweight laptop desk (which start at around $40) easily used at home, work, and even during travel.
- Think about your children. School-age children need standup desks. They sit most of the day and then come home and sit for most of the evening— doing homework, playing video games, eating dinner, or watching TV.
Walk Instead of Sitting
- Don’t do this occasionally, do this every day, at least once every one to two hours, even if you are merely walking around your house, around the block, or around the office.
- Take the stairs at work, at the movie theater, at the airport, at doctors’ appointments— anytime you are going up or down, use the stairs.
- Conduct walking meetings. Carry a clipboard to take notes. If someone at work wants to discuss an idea, suggest that you walk outside as you talk.
- Park away from your destination and walk a few extra steps.
- Walk to work, if possible, or bike.
- Walk after dinner with those you care about— it allows you time to catch up and connect. Walking after a meal (especially a big meal) helps your body process food and could keep older people from developing diabetes.
- Listen to a book on tape while you walk.
Develop a Fitness Routine
When you are ready for aerobic training and fitness, we suggest finding a friend to join you. For Alison, having a workout partner is an essential part of improving her fitness that helps keep her motivated and makes her responsible to someone other than herself.
Build your strength and your stamina. Resistance work is great for building muscle mass and protecting bone health. And your own body is your best source of resistance. A near perfect exercise is the simple plank. This activates your large muscle groups and builds arm strength. You can include free weights or resistance bands to create more tension on the muscles.
Start with something easily accessible that works with your schedule and temperament. Alison admires the runners who jog by our house every morning and evening, but she has no desire to be one of them. Be honest with yourself about what you want to do and what you can sustain. You don’t have to run a marathon. You just have to find a way to move more that works for you.