Have an Active Fall!
Physical activity is probably not on the top of our minds as we struggle to keep our life together while protecting ourselves, families and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, physical activity should be on our priority list this fall specifically, as it helps prevent and/or treat many physical and mental health conditions by improving functioning of numerous physiological systems.
As a matter of fact, physical activity has the potential to reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections. The effects of exercise on immunity, inflammation and viral respiratory infections are well documented. When one is physically active, muscles produce compounds that improve functioning of the immune system and reduce inflammation. Thus, physical activity strengthens the two biological processes that react to the infection. Muscles make up 30-40% of body weight, which make it a powerful ally in fighting the impact of infection; yet only when the muscles are being used.
Moreover, physical activity is effective for both preventing and treating heart diseases, diabetes and eight types of cancers, all of which increase the risk of severe illness and death among those infected with the coronavirus. Although physical activity is widely recommended by health authorities, efforts to promote active lifestyles are minimal. It is vital especially for those with chronic conditions to be moderately active; in order to reduce severity of illness and infections during the fall season. Because physical activity has immediate effects on immune functioning and inflammation (similar to taking a medication), people can reduce their risk of severe viral infections and their risk from multiple chronic diseases by simply being physically active.
Being physically active has important mental health benefits and could help many cope with ongoing stress and avoid psychological ill-health. Each session of physical activity reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, so being active every day can be a partial antidote to the stress. Restoring cortisol balance is another mechanism by which physical activity benefits immunity and inflammation.
Gyms and home-fitness resolution during COVID-19
Although gyms and workout classes provide a sense of community, support, and personalized instructions; they are also crowded areas with lots of high touch surfaces and objects that can transmit infections. Simple wiping off sweat with a towel is unfortunately not enough to keep safety. COVID-19 can spread readily in confined spaces where people are rigorously working out and breathing hard, which is a prime way the virus spreads from a person to another. In addition, when people breathe more rapidly and deeply, they expelling greater number of droplets; increasing the potential of transmission especially if there is poor air circulation.
The good news is that exercising does not necessarily have to be a gym-style workout; where home-fitness resolution can be adapted.
Below are suggested alternatives antidotes to seeking training in gyms:
- Home fitness apps requiring gym equipment:
There are interactive health home fitness apps that require home fitness equipment such as Mirror, Zwift, Tonal, Peloton, iFit and Nordic Track.
Each of which has different membership and pricing structures. These interactive platforms use real-time personalized health data to encourage users to take a more active interest in their own health. Nevertheless, they provide a social connection with friends and other users of the platform, which can make these types of exercise modalities tempting for those who need social motivation and accountability.
Interestingly, the data provided by interactive home gym equipment can be combined with the latest wearable tech such as Apple watches, Garmin devices, and Fitbits to track activities over time.
- Home fitness apps that do not require gym equipment:
There are also engaging, on-demand, and livestream workouts available online via YouTube and free mobile apps such as Aaptiv, Strava, Peloton, Nike training club and Zombies Run.
These tutorials can provide much-needed guidance for beginners or reinforce technique and form for seasoned gym goers. Many gyms and fitness instructors are offering virtual classes and personal training sessions that can be done in the safety of a person’s home. Some fitness apps offer a virtual community and health metric tracking to accompany the more conventional types of exercises that individuals can embark on.
- Other workout options include:There are many options for workouts that require no equipment and limited space including aerobics or dancing with or without workout videos, climbing stairs, cleaning the house, gardening, yoga, sit-ups and body weight trainings (such as squats, burpees, push ups, bottles or cans as weights, stepping over obstacles, sitting and getting up from a chair, etc.).
One can also use small pieces of home gym equipment (such as resistance bands, a pair of dumbbells, or kettlebells).
- Simple outdoor activities: This kind of activities (such as walking, jogging, bicycling, etc.) allow some good fresh air without coming into close contact with others and keeping social distance. Because of the aerodynamic effect of movement, larger social-distancing rules of 5 meters should apply to exercising outdoors.
Squeeze the joy out of safe workouts
Certain measures should be kept in mind, while maintaining physical activity during this fall; such as:
- Moderate-intensity exercise is a key! This is not the time for over-exercising. High intensity physical activity diminishes the immunity.
- All adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week. For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week.
- Safeguard the body from injury during this challenging time, because it will be difficult to get the appropriate care needed if anything happens.
- It’s important to recognize that lapses can happen. Acknowledge your emotions, be mindful about them compassionately and start fresh immediately without judgement.
- Take social distance seriously of 5 meters while exercising; make room for others, while remembering to stay friendly to those around.
- For those who are using this time to initiate an exercise program, the goal should be sustaining the exercise once life returns back to normal. To do this, individuals should aim to do some form of exercise daily to create a habit, which generally takes about 10 weeks. In addition, individuals should plan to exercise at the time of day they would exercise under traditional circumstances.
Jiménez-Pavón, D., Carbonell-Baeza, A. and Lavie, C. (2020) Physical exercise as therapy to fight against themental and physical consequences of COVID-19 quarantine: Special focus in older people, Progress in cardiovascular diseases, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2020.03.009
Jordan, R., Adab, P. & Cheng, K.(2020). Covid-19: Risk factors for severe disease and death. BMJ.
Sallis, J., Adlakha, D., Oyeyemi, A. & Salvo, D. (2020). An international physical activity and public health research agenda to inform covid-19 policies and practices. Journal of sports and health science