The coronavirus pandemic can feel frightening, but I hope it hasn’t scared you away from exercise! This may be a critical time to prioritize nutrition, but it’s also a great time to focus on fitness, especially if you suddenly have more free time on your hands. Not only does exercise boost immunity, it also improves lung function and produces lots of feel-good hormones -- like those endorphins. And who couldn’t use a daily dose of those right about now?
Fortunately, while most Americans are under stay-at-home orders, exceptions have been made in many communities for exercising outside. If going out isn’t an option for you, or you simply don’t feel safe doing so, there have never been more indoor options -- and many of them are free right now.
Here’s a few tips on how to keep fit while still staying safe:
- DO stick to your usual form of exercise as closely as possible. This is easy if you usually walk or run or ride a bike. It’s a bit more challenging if your routine includes swimming or a specialized gym, but you can look for online options that involve a similar level of activity (so if you do water aerobics, try a step aerobics class ranked easy to moderate, for example).
- DO find an exercise partner. Even if you’re not meeting in person, find someone who you can check in with every day. Studies show people are more likely to stick to a routine if they have a friend to hold them accountable.
- DO look for online exercise options. If you already belong to a gym, start there. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to follow your favorite instructor online. National organizations like Peloton, Orange Theory, Daily Burn and Down Dog are offering free classes.
- DO focus on body strength, especially core. Simple movements can make a big impact -- no equipment needed! For my part, I’ve rediscovered a video I used to follow regularly years ago – Ali McGraw’s Yoga Mind and Body – on YouTube. Just like my treadmill reminded me how out of shape I was a while ago, this video has shown me how much flexibility I’ve lost! Woohoo.
- DO remember to incorporate more movement into other activities. Dance a little while cooking. Do a few sit-ups when watching the news. A pretty painless way to make what you're doing already better for you.
- DO check local regulations first if you are going outside to exercise to avoid any surprises. For example, in many communities, public parks are currently off-limits.
- DO spread out when exercising outdoors, always keeping a minimum of 6 foot distance between you and other individuals and wearing a mask or buff if possible/practical.
- DON’T start something totally new or extremely strenuous. This is not the time to risk an injury.
Finally, keep eating well! An optimally fueled machine always works better. At least that's what I'm hoping as I try to master tree pose!