3 Strategies to Maintain Health and Fitness During Social Distancing and COVID-19
Although COVID-19 has caused temporary changes to our way of life, we shouldn’t let it put a damper on doing healthy activities. Now more than ever is the time to keep an active, healthy lifestyle, while still following the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the spread. Doing so will help in fighting this virus. And regular physical activity boosts your immune system, prevents chronic conditions, and even helps to fight anxiety and fear.
Physical therapists encourage Americans to keep moving in or around their homes while following social distancing guidelines and other government orders. PTs are health care’s movement experts who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.
The strategies and tips in this article are provided by PTs to help you stay active and maintain your flexibility and strength. They also can help you avoid any unintended effects caused by gym closures and temporary limits on mobility.
Three Strategies for Keeping Your Body Healthy During Social Distancing
For each strategy or exercise, choose the level of intensity or length of time that fits your current ability and fitness level. If you’re not sure, start with level 1 and contact your doctor or physical therapist if you don’t know what intensity is right for you.
1. Keep moving!
Moving your body is critical to good health. Although social distancing limits our mobility, we need to find opportunities to keep moving. Try to get 30 minutes of physical activity each day that increases your heart rate or challenges your breathing in whatever number of sessions. Three 10-minute segments are just as good as one 30-minute session.
Walk, run, or ride a bike. Try an at-home yoga, cardio, or dance exercise video. Take extra trips up and down stairs if that’s an option for you (taking breaks if needed). Missing the activities you usually enjoy? Try going through the motions of your favorite ones like practicing your golf or tennis swing, or pretending to paddle or do swim strokes in the air for a few minutes at a time. Find what works for you and keep track of your progress. Bit by bit add more time, repetitions, or distance every two to three days to challenge yourself.
Then take advantage of these stretching and strengthening programs designed by physical therapists to help you stay flexible and keep muscle strength.
2. Stretch daily.
This 30-minute stretching plan provided by physical therapists can be done at three different levels (easy, moderate, or advanced) depending on your fitness, age, and desired challenge. In addition to being physically active each day and avoiding sitting for long periods, it’s essential to keep your body flexible by stretching daily. Stretching should be done after getting at least five minutes of physical activity to warm up.
Tip: Try to fit stretching and strengthening into things that you enjoy like a daily TV show or listening to music or a podcast.
3. Maintain muscle strength.
Being inactive and prolonged sitting can cause our muscles to lose strength. It is vital to build or maintain muscle strength, now more than ever. Physical therapists designed a 30-minute strengthening program with easy, moderate, or advanced levels.
More movement means better health. There are many options for exercising at home. Videos on demand from your TV provider, streaming services, or mobile apps can bring instruction directly to you. Just make sure to choose one with the right level of difficulty for your fitness level.
Here are some safe, effective video programs led by physical therapists to help keep you and everyone in your family moving:
Get Ready for Fun Times To Come
Following these tips will help you stay healthy and keep you ready to return to your favorite activities when circumstances permit. While we all work together to fight this pandemic and do our part to protect ourselves and our communities from COVID-19, let’s stay active. Even while we’re apart, we’re all in this together.
Authored by James E. Zachazewski, PT, DPT, board-certified clinical specialist in sports physical therapy, and Lauren J. Mellett, PT, DPT, board-certified clinical specialist in cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy.
For more information on physical activity, visit Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.