Have you been keeping active during the pandemic? COVID-19 changed the entire world. While it's not the most important change, one of those changes was to people's overall activity levels.
Some people took the opportunity of lockdown to improve their physical health by eating well and exercising during the pandemic. Others were too overwhelmed to do so, and instead, got more sedentary over the past year.
Learning how to be active again is tough. You're adjusting to a world that's emerging from a serious pandemic, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't continue taking care of your body.
But why is exercise important with so much else going on? Keep reading to learn all about the importance and benefits of physical exercise (and how you can stay active in 2021).
If you're still under lockdown at home, it's tempting to lounge around all day. You work from home, you learn from home, and you aren't able to go to the gym. Why bother staying active?
COVID-19 is still here, and exercise may be a key factor in keeping yourself safe and healthy.
Studies suggest that patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive were 266% more likely to be hospitalized than those who exercised around 150 minutes every week. This is a huge difference.
While there are other factors that impact how someone will respond to COVID-19, this is one factor that most people have control over. You can't change your age, chronic health conditions, or work conditions, but you can change how much you exercise as long as you're an able-bodied adult.
Not everyone has been getting enough exercise. While some people have been making the most of lockdown and improving their overall health, others have not.
Between poor mental health, stress from the pandemic, or overwhelming work schedules, many people are not finding time to tend to their bodies.
Have Canadians Been Staying Active?
So have people been following the suggestions from health professionals and saying active?
Statistics say: not really, but it depends.
Research from self-reported information says that before the pandemic, only 54.6% of Canadians over the age of twelve were getting enough physical exercise. While that's not enough, it's still over half of that population.
Canadians are recommended to get 150 minutes of mild to moderate exercise every week (with wiggle room if they partake in vigorous exercise).
During the pandemic, however, things changed. While only 22.4% of people who were already active decreased their activity levels, over 40% of inactive people became less active.
Over 40% of active individuals became more active in comparison to 33% of inactive individuals.
In short, many Canadians have taken their time in lockdown to improve their overall exercise routines, but many others have fallen into the lockdown trap. They aren't getting enough exercise during a time where exercise is more important than ever.
Why Is Exercise Important?
As we mentioned, exercise may protect people from serious COVID-19 complications. That's not the only reason that you should exercise, though.
Even without the pandemic, the recommended amount of exercise was important. There are plenty of physical and mental health benefits that come alongside getting your body moving.
Here are a few things that you can gain when you exercise.
Physical Benefits of Physical Activity
The physical benefits of exercise are the most obvious and well-known. Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body, even if they choose not to partake in it.
First, exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight. Body weight isn't everything when it comes to health, but maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid problems in the future.
Obesity can lead to heart disease, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and more. This means that the more you weigh, the harder it is to exercise and stay healthy. It's a self-defeating problem.
Exercise also helps you build strength. Cardio is all the rage amongst the average person, but strength training will allow you to build a toned and capable physique. You'll be better at standard physical tasks, you'll have a stronger core, and you'll be at a lower risk for injury.
Physical exercise can also help you age better. While many people experience mobility changes and challenges as they get older, you're less likely to experience serious mobility problems if you stay active while you're young.
Exercise leads to a longer and healthier life.
Mental Benefits of Physical Activity
There are more than just physical benefits to physical activity. The mental benefits are important as well, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown where many people are struggling with their mental health.
First, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are "happy chemicals" that are supposed to allow you to work harder for longer.
Endorphins are great for pain relief, but they're also good for mental health. They may help with anxiety and depression. Endorphins also give you more energy for the rest of your day.
Exercise also allows you to sleep better, which should improve your mood in the long run.
If you're someone who struggles with anxiety and racing thoughts, exercise might be able to help even beyond the endorphins.
When you exercise, you develop mindfulness. This allows you to live "in the moment" instead of in your head. You have to focus on what you're doing if you want a successful workout.
When you're on a run, you're focusing on your speed and breathing. When you're lifting weights, you're counting repetitions and controlling your muscles.
If heavy exercise doesn't work for you, yoga is also great for mindfulness.
How to Stay Active
Staying active without the hustle and bustle of in-office jobs or adequate gym access is tough. That said, it's not impossible. There are plenty of resources that you can use to work out even without a gym.
First, get outside. Now that the weather is warmer, it's a perfect time to go outside for a walk or even a run. Outdoor exercise is safe during the lockdown as long as you keep a reasonable distance from other people.
When in doubt, wear a mask when someone is nearby.
If you're ready for it, try running or hiking outdoors. This is more active than walking, so it will have more health benefits. You can also look and see if there are any local parks that have fitness equipment of some kind.
If you're staying indoors, you still have options.
For those who can afford it, consider buying exercise equipment. Even a set of dumbbells, a resistance band, or a yoga mat will make a big difference.
Look into online resources for workouts. There are plenty of free workouts on YouTube that are great for people with no equipment and minimal space.
Tips and Tricks: Home Workouts
Working out at home is challenging. Between a busy lifestyle, family members, and the stress from the pandemic, it can be hard to get motivated. There are a few things that you can do to make it easier.
First, try to find an exercise that you enjoy. The best home workout is the one that you can do consistently, so even if it's low-intensity, it's better than nothing.
Some people enjoy watching dance videos and dancing along. Others like going on long walks to look at nature. Some enjoy strength training.
Whatever appeals to you is what you should be doing.
Next, make a schedule for yourself. Try to find time between all of your responsibilities to take care of your physical health. Make an alarm on your phone if that makes it easier for you.
Make sure that the rest of your family or household knows that you want to commit to your exercise time so that they leave you alone time. If that's not possible, consider bringing them into your routine and exercising together.
If it's helpful for you, start an accountability group. Get one or several friends together (virtually) to either complete group workouts on video or check in with each other about their workout goals. This helps you stay accountable so you don't start skipping workouts when you lose motivation.
Keep Exercising During Lockdown
The COVID-19 pandemic isn't over. You'll be spending time at home for a while, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be staying active.
With all of the online resources available, exercising during the pandemic is easier than ever. Establish a good routine, use videos, and get some equipment, and you'll be well on your way to a healthier and happier self.