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Stay in Shape while Sheltering in Place

Monica Lidral, BSN, MPH

In this unique and challenging time, many of us are spending a lot of time indoors. Whether we live alone or with others, many of us feel stressed and anxious. Physical exercise and fitness can help improve our mood and alleviate stress and tension.

Aerobic or cardiorespiratory capacity, strength, flexibility, and balance are the four pillars of physical fitness. Many of us only think of the first two when we think of physical fitness. Good physical fitness throughout one’s lifespan also includes balance and flexibility as these help to prevent injuries and falls. Regular exercise has many benefits and improves one’s overall health and reduces the risk of many chronic health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, overweight, and Type 2 diabetes.

We live in a sedentary society with electronic entertainment and modern conveniences that make it easy to sit on the couch for hours at a time. While we stay at home during this pandemic, many of us have started walking outside. Isn’t it fun to hear the birds and to see trees budding and plants pushing up from the ground?  Do you remember playing outside for hours when you were a child? This is our chance to swap commuting in the car for walking in our neighborhood!

Walking is a cardiorespiratory exercise that practically everyone can do. As with all exercise programs, start slowly in pace and distance or time and gradually increase. Please consult your doctor if you have any chronic health condition. Exercise is even recommended for cardiac patients (with proper supervision from health care professionals or with a heart rate monitor). In addition to brisk walking, other exercises that increase cardiorespiratory fitness are jogging, running, tennis, bicycling, and swimming. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends aerobic exercise 3-5 times per week for 30-60 minutes, at an intensity that keeps the heart rate at 65-85 percent of the maximum heart rate (about 220—your age + beats per minute).

Strength training is important as we age to preserve muscle mass and strength. It doesn’t require a gym or weights. Using one’s body weight as resistance builds strength. Think of ab crunches, planks, and pushups. Resistance bands are great for strengthening the upper body and arms. It’s best to warm up with moderate aerobic activity before strength training to prevent injury.

Flexibility is often skipped when we’re in a rush. How about stretching in front of the TV or while talking on the phone? Yoga is great for improving both flexibility and balance. Advanced poses such as arm balances also improve strength. Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Bikram Yoga are styles of yoga that improve flexibility and balance.  The most important reason to exercise now is to keep yourself healthy, both physically and emotionally. I’m wishing you all the best in your exercise routine. Stay safe and see you in the neighborhood!

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