Even though our regular gyms and fitness centers are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that doesn't mean we should stop exercising. Research indicates that keeping a regular, daily exercise routine—even during isolation—strengthens our immune system. Oliva Hall, Operations Manager at Augusta Health Fitness talks about staying 'Healthy at Home: Exercising while Isolating'.
What are the benefits of exercise to the immune system?
We all understand that exercise and fitness are part of a healthy lifestyle, and for years we've all exercised to control our weight and help reduce our risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. But there have been many studies throughout the years that have shown that regular, moderate exercise also helps boost and improve our immune system help increase our resistance to infection.
Exercise is good for both your physical health and your mental health—and especially in times like these, the mental health aspects take on increased importance. Many people are stressed and experiencing anxiety, not just about COVID-19, but due to the changes they've experienced in lifestyle. Children are schooling at home, many are working from home, grocery shopping is challenging and stores and gyms are closed. This stress and anxiety can suppress the immune system and lead to the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Exercising has a positive impact on reducing cortisol and boosts the immune response.
We should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate exercises each week. Most people break this down into 30 minute periods of exercise five days a week, but whatever works for you is what is best for you. Moderate intensity exercise means you can still carry on a conversation while exercising. Walking can be a good moderate exercise, but you want to be walking at a brisk pace and working up a little sweat.
What kind of adjustments to our exercise routines should we make during COVID-19 isolation?
An important consideration is to be sure you are reducing your exposure to the virus while you're exercising—this is the exercising while isolating process. So you need to be sure you are practicing social distancing if you are, for instance, walking with a friend. You should also practice good hand hygiene—wash your hands properly before and after exercise.
You should also be sure to schedule your exercise into your new routines. When you can't go to the gym, and your life is a chaotic because you're out of synch with your normal routine—your kids are home from school or you are working from home—it's easy to skip exercising if you don't plan for it. So whether it's a walk after dinner with your family or a workout right after you get up in the morning—just be sure to schedule your fitness routine at a time that works for you.
You might have to be a bit creative—using soup cans or laundry detergent bottles for hand weights or substituting a coffee table for an exercise bench—but you can make this work!
What tips or suggestions might make it easier to exercise in isolation?
Isolation does not mean you have to stay inside! In fact, getting out into the fresh air and nature on a nice day will increase your endorphins and elevate your mood. If it's raining, go up and down your stairs 10 times and you'll have a great workout.
I'd also encourage adding yoga to your fitness routine—it is great physical exercise and has excellent stress relieving benefits, too. Just five to 15 minutes a day will be helpful. There are several videos and apps for yoga. One of my favorite is the Down Dog app because you can customize and personalize each workout by length of time and ability level. I'd recommend using the 'free trial' option before purchasing. The app will be helpful for those who have never done yoga as well as those who have been practicing it for years.
The best tip, though, is to just continue to live a healthy lifestyle during these times—exercise, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, social distance and wash your hands. This will have a positive impact on your well-being today and in the future.