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Healthy Tahoe: Benefits of exercise while in crisis

Nick Ward
Nick Ward
Provided

Many of us are aware of the health benefits of physical activity, and build some form of it into our weekly routine. During this time of disruption to our lives, establishing a daily routine that includes exercise is a healthy way to adapt in our “new normal.”

Maintaining activity is more important than ever. Exercise has been shown to boost immunity in times of stress, as the movement of our muscles releases chemicals in our brains that have therapeutic effects on mood, helping to reduce depression, anxiety and pain.

In fact, a recent study from Harvard Medical School shows that any type of exercise for 20 minutes can help one feel relaxed and more positive.

Being isolated may mean you do not have the access to your usual facilities, equipment, and outdoor spaces. This doesn’t have to prevent you from being active and benefiting from the effects that a regular dose of exercise will offer.

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Explore all available options to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, including gardening and yard work, household projects, and brisk walks through the neighborhood. Outdoors, we absorb much needed vitamin D from the sun, which has many health benefits.

Consider creating a circuit that incorporates some “quarantine cardio” into your daily routine to elevate your heart rate and oxygenate your lungs during home isolation:

Activity one: Take a brisk walk around your neighborhood, maybe adding an extra loop or adding extra streets. Note that dogs can actually make you walk slower than recommended, so keep it brisk.

Activity two: Stand up from a chair and walk through all rooms in your house, including stepping up and down any stairs, and going around the yard, then sit back down. Repeat as needed, with other chairs in other rooms.

Activity three: Organize household projects that need to be done in each room of the home, and walk around your house before completing the chore; then do another lap before arriving at the room where you’ll finish your next project.

Mixing up activities, and inviting household members to participate or friends to join via Facebook or Zoom can add to the fun. In fact, your friends and family can help keep you accountable to exercising, and enjoy its benefits with you.

The physical and mental health benefits of exercise during stressful times can be noticed at frequencies of three to five times each week, or at two to three per day for shorter activities. The activity should feel somewhat hard; a good point of reference is noticing your breathing while holding a conversation or singing a song while you do it.

Start easier if you are just beginning. As little as five minutes of activity each day can help, and building up to 30 minutes is even more beneficial.

Not all outdoor spaces are suitable for exercise. Traffic, weather conditions and safety are all things to consider before heading outdoors. Carefully assess your outdoor space to find a setting that allows for social distancing and is not overly crowded. Depending on the conditions, sunscreen, a hat, warm clothes or protective rain gear may be necessary.

Make sure to follow all public health and safety guidelines shared at bartonhealth.org/coronavirus. Be safe and have fun.

Nick Ward is the Performance Director at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, helping the community train well, eat well and restore well.


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