For many of us, staying active is probably not at the top of our to-do lists as we all work to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. It may have also disrupted how or where we are able to get in our physical activity. In spite of these challenges, getting regular physical activity is a great way to help keep both our bodies and minds healthy.
Here we will discuss a few of the ways you can keep your body moving and keep your best health in spite of the many barriers presented by COVID-19.
What are the benefits of staying active?
Regular physical activity has tremendous benefits for your physical and mental health. It can help you manage weight, reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease or diabetes, improve balance and strength, improve sleep, and improve the overall feeling of wellbeing.
Staying active is not just recommended for those at risk for or those who already have health conditions. Everyone can benefit from keeping their body moving!
What counts as physical activity?
The great thing about physical activity is that it includes more than just exercising at the gym or playing a sport. Any activity that keeps your body moving – whether it’s going for a walk, gardening, or dancing – also counts as physical activity.
Typically, moderate- to vigorous-intensity activities are recommended to keep our bodies healthy. A few examples of these activities are:
- Moderate-intensity: going for a brisk walk, biking < 10 miles per hour, dancing, gardening, housework, and water aerobics.
- Vigorous-intensity: running or jogging, hiking uphill, swimming laps, biking > 10 miles per hour, and competitive sports.
You should also consider activities that help keep your muscles strong 2 or more days weekly. Some examples of these activities include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, yoga, tai chi, or push-ups. These exercises are especially important for older adults who have poor mobility to improve balance and prevent falls.
How much physical activity do I really need?
Recommendations for how much exercise is often specific to individuals but should consider age, existing health conditions, as well as limitations that may affect one’s ability to tolerate exercise.
The World Health Organization typically recommends adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week OR 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
How can I safely stay active during COVID-19?
Now that you’re ready to get active, please keep in mind a few recommendations to keep yourself safe:
Avoid exercise if you’re feeling sick, especially if you have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. Consult your doctor or another healthcare professional about next steps in these situations
- Feel free to go outside for exercise like walks, runs, or bicycle rides – but ALWAYS practice COVID-19 precautions. These include staying 6 or more feet away from others and frequent hand washing throughout the day.
- If you are not regularly active, start slow, and build up. Starting with low-intensity exercises like walking for short periods of time is a great way to keep your body moving. As you build up, you can increase exercise intensity and duration.
- Remember that little bits of activity is still beneficial. Even something as simple as taking a 5-minute break to walk or stretch per 30 minutes of TV watched can improve your health and well-being.
Are there other tips for staying active?
A great place to start is setting regular activity goals for yourself. When goal-setting, always remember to make your goals specific and reasonable for your situation. You can also adjust your goals over time as needed.
Some examples of activity goals are:
- For someone who is not active: going for a leisurely walk for 15 minutes, 3 days per week.
- For a moderately active person: going on a brisk walk for 30 minutes, 5 days per week.
Lastly, consider ways that you can help keep yourself accountable such as making physical activity part of your daily routine, tracking your activity, or being active with friends and family (while considering COVID-19 precautions).
Above all, remember that even though the gyms are closed, there are still plenty of ways to stay active and keep yourself healthy!