Staying Active in an Era of Social Distancing
The recent era of Covid-19 virus has caused us to rethink and approach all aspects of daily life differently. All around the world, business is being conducted utilizing different techniques, if at all. We are all learning how to be teachers while educating our children utilizing virtual platforms. Board games and jigsaw puzzles are enjoying renewed interest, as we search for ways to entertain our families. What we eat and how we dine are being challenged. Travel is being curtailed. While we all look forward to an expedient path to a vaccine, treatment and abundant testing resources, we are forced to accept that social distancing is likely to be a reality for the foreseeable future.
Amidst the adjustments to all aspects of our life, personal fitness often takes a back seat. The constraints are obvious: no access to commercial gyms, beaches and parks. Space limitations in one’s home and time restraints caused by family and work are truths that many of us use to justify why we are unable to exercise during these times. However, physical activity has benefits which become more obvious during times of uncertainty. Improving our health to the best of our ability gives us the power to focus energy on some aspects of our life that we do have control over. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise contributes to better sleep, enhanced sense of well-being and a healthier immune system, which is the way in which we can help defend ourselves against infections like COVID 19.
There are pragmatic and innovative ways to allow our bodies the exercise that can help optimize our health. Please be sure to consult your personal physician before undertaking any new exercise routine.
Although it may seem harder to exercise during this time, there are ample opportunities that technology has allowed to stay fit. In the information age, there is a plethora of workout options online. From online workout song mixes, to group exercises on YouTube, there are a multitude of workout routines. Depending on your style or preference, you can find varied options such as aerobic exercises, Pilates, weights, tai chi or yoga. For families with children, sites such as YouTube also offer family exercises that can get children of all ages involved.
Low-impact exercises utilizing elliptical machines and stationary bikes provide cardiac benefit while being low-shock on the joints. These exercises are ideal for patients who suffer from chronic joint ache, joint stiffness or arthritis. It is important to start any exercise regimen with a realistic and achievable goal. Just starting with 10 minutes on day one and slowly increasing the intensity and duration of your exercise regimen can be effective. Being disciplined enough to do the exercises on regular basis is important to see an actual impact on your health.
Using video chatting platforms such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom to plan simple group workouts can allow you to involve friends and family members all over the world while staying connected to loved ones. You can have a basic indoor exercise routine that can be circulated to the group so everyone can participate with ease. Virtual dance parties provide another way to involve others and exercise in a fun way.
Fitness tracking devices such as Fitbit allow you to set a goal of daily steps to walk and follow the progress of friends, coworkers and family members. This is a great way to stay motivated, keep connected with others, and help keep each other accountable.
Additionally, many of us are now working virtually from home by utilizing our computers and devices more than usual. It is important to take scheduled breaks in between meetings to simply stretch, stand and take a quick walk around the house. During long meetings, moving your feet up and down allows for an easy way to contract your leg muscles and help with circulation. Gentle range of motion exercises can be effective to aid in stiffness that can develop with a sedentary lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic has some resources on simple stretching exercises that can be done at home or in an office setting. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/basics/stretching-and-flexibility/hlv-20049447)
We’ve seen viral online stories of people running a distance equivalent to that of a marathon on small balconies. We’ve seen heroic stories of people climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest utilizing their own home stairs. These inspiring stories highlight the truth of the adage that where there is a will, there truly is a way. The important thing to understand that even a little exercise goes a long way. You don’t have to perform a heroic athletic feat to stay fit. Start small and simple and work slowly up from there. Thinking a little creatively, using technology and involving friends and family, may allow you to utilize this era of social distancing and increased time at home to refocus some energy on improving your own physical health.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Aman Makani of Ascend Orthopedics and Sports Medicine (www.makaniortho.com) in St. Petersburg is a fellow and former graduate of Harvard Medical School. He is a double board-certified orthopedic surgeon and orthopedic sports medicine specialist.