Maintaining Regular Physical Activity While Taking Precautions
By: Emma Parkhurst, MS, CHES | USU Extension | Davis County
Question: How can I stay active if I am practicing social distancing?
For many of us, we may not easily sacrifice exercise because it plays a big role in our lives for both physical and mental benefits. With ongoing COVID-19 concerns, health authorities like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have advised the public to practice social distancing (maintaining at least 6 feet between you and others and avoiding mass gatherings of 10 or more) to slow or prevent transmitting the virus. While staying at home is a safe measure, it may lead to reduced physical activity as an unintentional outcome.
Without question, engaging in regular physical helps us feel better and stay healthier. Physically active people reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Mental health benefits may include reduced feelings of anxiety and depression and improved sleep and quality of life. So how can we maintain regular exercise while taking precautions to stay healthy? Rather than spending excessive amounts of time sitting and playing games, watching Netflix, or using mobile devices, consider trying one or more of the following ideas to maintain your level of physical activity to stay healthy:
- Exercise at home: There are many effective ways to exercise at home for all levels of activity, such as walking, running, stretching, yoga, and strength training. For strength training, choose exercises that target different areas of your body for a full-body workout. Examples that do not require equipment include squats, lunges, leg lifts, planks, pushups, bicycles, and burpees. Visit the Create Better Health (Utah SNAP-ED) Sweatin’ Saturday page for a variety of home exercises with more guidance. Remember, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program, and stop if you experience any pain or difficulty.
- Get active outdoors: If you are healthy and feel cooped up while social distancing, take some time to enjoy the outdoors. Exercising and spending time outside offers an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety. If you can safely practice social distancing, take a brisk walk around your neighborhood or local park, explore a new trail, ride a bicycle, or stay home and play lawn or backyard games as a family.
- Work in the yard and garden: If you’re new to gardening, it may surprise you to learn that gardening activities count toward physical activity recommendations. Gardening provides cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, muscle- and bone-strengthening benefits, and mental benefits like feelings of clarity or reward. Whether your yard or garden includes flowers and foliage, fruits and vegetables, or pesky weeds, visit the USU Extension Yard and Garden website and check out what you can do in your yard or garden right now.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans. (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Service