Why You Need to Exercise During a Crisis

If you want to maintain your resilience during a crisis, make time to exercise. You don't need to do very much to see the positive benefits.

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We are in the middle of a health crisis, and we don’t know when it will end. Those of us who maintain our resilience through this crisis will adapt more easily to the unexpected and will recover more quickly once the crisis is over.

Several researchers have found that regular exercise helps build resilience, which is why it’s critical to stay active during this crisis.

One study found that aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, reduce anxiety and depression. A literature review noted that working out reduces anxiety, depression, and negative mood, and improves self-esteem and cognitive functioning. Another study found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Several studies show that exercise can improve your immune system.

Researchers speculate that exercise is so powerful because it promotes neural growth in the brain and reduces inflammation. Physical activity may create new brain patterns, promoting feelings of calm and wellbeing. Exercise also releases endorphins, which make us feel good. Exercise can help us sleep well, which is known to have protective effects on the brain.

Most experts recommend that thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking, for three days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits. These 30 minutes need not be continuous; three 10-minute walks can be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk. Even if you don’t have 90 minutes each week to exercise, do what you can. One study found that a single, brief spurt of very easy exercise will produce desirable changes in the brain.

If the coronavirus has disrupted your regular exercise routine, think about alternative ways you can keep moving. For example, put on some music and dance for 10 minutes every day. Find a virtual exercise class that keeps you motivated. Go for a solo bike ride or walk around the block.

While moderate exercise is critical during a crisis, avoid over-exercising since some research indicates that stress caused by too much physical activity may be harmful. Consult your doctor before exercising while sick or starting a new exercise routine.

What impact does exercise have on your resilience?

I help individuals and teams thrive in adversity by providing practical skills and tools I developed over several decades as a U.S. diplomat in challenging environments. Visit my website to learn more about how I can help you and your team better adapt to stress and adversity. With resilience skills and tools, you and your team will be more creative, innovative, and collaborative. Resilient individuals and teams are less likely to suffer from burnout and are more open to change. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter at @payneresilience.

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