We’re officially in a pandemic as COVID-19 sweeps the world. But before you panic-buy toilet paper and canned soup, stop, breathe, and re-group. Yes, now is the time to practice social distancing, but what does that mean for your carefully-laid fitness plans? While your gym may be temporarily closed, we need exercise now more than ever. Here’s how — and why — to maintain fitness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exercise Boosts the Immune System
At one time, it was thought that intense exercises created a kind of window during which the immune system dipped temporarily, leaving space for pathogens to rush in. But at one time, it was also widely believed that the world was flat. We know better on both counts now. Even a single workout actually serves to boost the immune system, and regular exercise enhances the vaccination response while also lowering risks of certain inflammatory conditions like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
It’ll Keep You Sane
Staying close to home day in and day out is tedious, no doubt. But instead of zoning out in couch-potato mode, make time to move. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone, and we all need a shot of that relaxing mood enhancer these days. Keep your energy levels up, promote better sleep, and feel more positive (in spite of the increasingly alarming 24-hour news cycle), all with a bit of exercise.
Studies have found that regular exercise treats mild to moderate depression as effectively as medication. That’s because it promotes positive change in the brain — reduced inflammation, neural growth, and activity patterns that encourage calmness and a sense of well being. It’s also a powerful distraction, which is wonderfully useful during these unsettling times.
Fitness Without the Gym
Minimum recommendations to reap the benefits of physical movement are thirty minutes per day, five days a week. Getting outside for a light jog or brisk walk is one option. Indoors, there are free fitness tutorials splashed all over the web. Look online for inspiration, and then press play. Try a yoga flow, or alternate between squats, push ups and sit ups. Body-weight resistance exercises — wall sits, bench dips, hand-stands, lunges, push up variations, etc. — will get your heart pumping in no time.
This is an unusual time, and exercise may feel low on your priority list. The truth is that making time to mindfully move your body will pay off.