Having a hard time getting back into an exercise routine? Here’s why you should.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, social media users often relied on humor to help combat stress. It wasn’t unusual to see posts from people joking about how they were turning into couch potatoes or admitting they were eating too much junk food.
Laughing is one way to ease stress and the posts were funny because most of us could relate. But another proven method for de-stressing is working out – something that just wasn’t being done as much as usual when everyone was staying home. Now that restrictions are easing, getting back to a regular workout routine should be on your to-do list.
Exercise has a number of scientifically proven physical and mental benefits, some immediate and others gradual. Besides helping with stress, exercise can also:
- Help prevent weight gain or help maintain weight loss you’ve already achieved.
- Help keep your heart healthy by increasing blood flow, which in turn decreases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Keep your joints moving, which can help prevent or manage arthritis.
- Help improve brain function.
- Improve muscle strength and deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, which gives you more energy.
- Help you sleep better.
- Boost your immune system, which can help keep you healthier and potentially better able to prevent or combat a COVID-19 infection.
- Help improve your mood by stimulating chemicals in your brain. When you’re happier, more relaxed and less anxious, you have more confidence and improved self-esteem, which can help ease feelings of depression.
In times of high stress, like during the pandemic, it’s normal to want to curl up on the couch and hide from the world. But when you’re not moving regularly, you’re more prone to aches and pains, increased risk of disease, unhealthy weight gain and heightened feelings of anxiety. These all add to a stress level that’s already high, and then the cycle keeps repeating itself. It’s important to get moving – and to stay moving – now more than ever.
When you can’t get outside for a run or don’t yet feel comfortable going to the gym, here are a few easy ways to sneak some exercise into your day:
- Take movement breaks. Working from home? Sitting at your workstation all day can cause your muscles to stiffen up. Take regular breaks, even if only for five minutes, to get up out of your chair, stretch and walk around the house. Swing your arms in a circle. Do a few deep knee bends or some crunches. If necessary, set an alarm as a reminder.
- Don’t sit if you don’t have to. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it takes getting used to. Pace the floor while you’re talking on the phone. If you’re watching TV, get up each time there’s a commercial and walk around the room or do some jumping jacks.
- Embrace your chores. Sure, daily household tasks can be pretty annoying – unless you think of them as mini exercise sessions. Do a lunge each time you remove a piece of clothing from the dryer or a plate from the dishwasher. Get out a bucket and some rags and give the car (or the dog!) a good washing. Put your lawnmower on a higher setting so you have to circle the yard twice. (Bonus points if you use a push mower.)
- Try virtual fitness classes. From trainers to yoga instructors to your local rec center, just about everyone these days is producing online classes you can follow at home, and many of them are free.
- Just have fun. Remember how much fun it was as a kid to run around the yard, ride your bike around the neighborhood or master a new skill? One super easy way to be more active is to embrace the kid in you and just have some fun. Play hopscotch. Fly a kite. Turn on some music and dance. Or race your spouse across the yard.
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Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD