Physical Activity in Quarantine
While stuck at home during the COVID-19 crisis, we are all struggling to develop new routines to guide our daily activities. New norms include telework, home-schooling, and more time spent between the 4 walls of our homes than ever. With quarantine, likely comes an increased frequency and duration of sedentary time whether that involves working on your computer remotely, helping your kids to participate in Zoom classes, or binge watching Netflix series to pass the time. And like most Americans, your change in circumstance has likely included added stress about job security, meal planning, lack of social contact with loved ones, and a sense of loss in many aspects of your life. Our physical and mental health is being tested and this is forcing us to find creative ways to engage in our communities, maintain an active lifestyle, and keep our sanity.
As a physical therapist whose job it is to encourage physical activity to promote healthier lifestyles, I’m here to do just that. In a time where we are hearing about “CDC guidelines” on mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing, I encourage you to dig a little further back into the CDC library to read their 2018 Guidelines on Physical Activity. These guidelines were released to help people of all ages to achieve the maximum benefit from physical activity. The general guidelines for all adults suggest 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week and 2 days per week of strength training. For individuals over 65, balance exercises are added to the recommendation to prevent falls, improve functional mobility, and promote independence.
There has never been a better time to initiate an exercise program! A single session of moderate exercise (think 30 min of brisk walking) can IMMEDIATELY reduce anxiety, reduce blood pressure, improve cognitive function, improve sleep, and improve insulin sensitivity. This means that you can instantaneously improve the outlook of the day ahead of you by reducing your stress levels, improve your efficiency with work and home management, and provide yourself with a better night's rest. Consider utilizing the time you used to spend commuting to the office to start walking 30 min around your neighborhood. Do this 5 times per week and you’ve hit the CDC’s recommended dosage of aerobic exercise just like that. Continue to do this for your lifetime and you will have drastically changed your health status including reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, 8+ kinds of cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and all-cause mortality. If you’ve never been an exerciser and think 30 min of exercise is unreasonable then I encourage you to start where you are. Maybe today that means walking to your mailbox and back. Rest and then repeat. The evidence suggests it does not matter how much exercise you do at one time, just that the total time in a week reaches 150 min. So start with 5 minutes and work your way up!
With regards to strength training, most of us are getting creative these days with workouts in our living room utilizing what we have available to us. Therabands, dumbbells, ankle weights, or just your body weight are all options to build muscle. Some of the more creative types have even dug into their pantry for some water bottles, canned goods, laundry detergent jugs, etc. to add extra challenge to their exercise routine. Consider implementing exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups to get the most bang for your buck. Remember, the goal is to perform strength training twice weekly if possible.
If you’re not a believer in exercise or are intimidated to start a program I encourage you to JUST TRY! After a small walk outdoors on a nice spring day you will be convinced of its benefits. If you need more convincing, we’ll always be here to get you on the right track.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” –Arthur Ashe
Written by: Courtney Dedda PT, DPT OCS, Vestibular-certified Specialist
CDC Exercise Guidelines: