If you’re someone who likes to exercise at the gym, it’s probably tough for you to see them shut down during the pandemic and start a new routine. And staying active during stressful times can be really hard for anyone! But working on improving your health is one of the most important things to help boost your immune system and stay healthy so your body can fend off illness. Working out not only helps prevent diseases but also has a lot of positive effects on our mental health. Scientists have found that aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, and dancing reduce anxiety and depression due to the increased blood circulation to the brain.
Although our everyday lives have drastically changed, there are ways to keep parts of your old exercise routine intact while also adding some new elements to keep your health in order. Here are some easy ways to help you get moving and feeling healthier at home.
Introduce yourself to yoga
A great way to manage your anxiety—in addition to your physical health—is meditative exercising like yoga. Yoga is designed to increase your strength and flexibility while also learning how to control your breathing, which will help you calm down and gain control over your stress. The meditative part of yoga helps you to be more mindful and present in the moment without thoughts of the future, which is probably something we all need right now.
If you’re new to yoga, there are many styles of yoga to try, but Hatha yoga is the best choice for beginners, especially those trying to manage their stress levels. Try searching for free yoga videos online to get started.
Get outside (in non-busy areas)
If you love being outdoors, a brisk walk around the park or in your neighborhood can provide plenty of benefits to your health and mood, but you could also try some more adventurous outdoors sports like hiking, trail running, or cycling. Growing scientific research shows a close connection to nature and our emotions, which is opening up a whole new field called ecotherapy. Although it might feel boring to go on these adventures alone, don’t go in large groups of people. You’ll still find value in exercising and nature by yourself, or ask someone in your immediate household to join you.
Related: COVID-19: How to Cope With Anxiety
Take screen breaks
Although it can be tempting to spend all day in front of a screen, your eyes won’t be too happy about that. Even short walking breaks can keep your energy up and your blood flowing and help you maintain your productivity. If you’re sitting for the majority of the day, take 10 minutes multiple times a day to stretch out your whole body. Your back and legs will thank you if you’re sitting more than you're used to.
Eat healthy, stay healthy
Don’t forget a huge part of our health—even bigger than exercising—is eating healthily. When we’re not feeling our best, we’re really good at indulging in bad habits like eating fast food, smoking, drinking, etc. Now is a good time to avoid these because healthy foods give us energy, and without energy, you’ll have no motivation to stay active.
Healthy foods like fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats, and protein are not only good for our immune systems but also for disease prevention. A good, well-balanced diet can bring a lot of benefits to our mental well-being too. Several scientific studies have suggested that there is a link between the food one eats and the risk of depression. Researchers have looked at many diets to calculate the risk of developing depression and found that healthy eaters has a significantly lower risk of developing depression than, for example, someone consuming the standard American diet.
Don’t feel guilty when you have a slow day
This situation is unprecedented, and everyone’s in the same boat, so don’t beat yourself up if you have an off day (or two). Sometimes the best thing you can do to make yourself feel better is to give yourself some time and space to adjust to a new schedule or routine. Eating some comfort food and having a movie marathon counts as self-care too, so don’t feel bad; just move on and try to get more steps in the next day.
Although the future may seem a little blurry right now, social distancing is a crucial part of preventing the spread of COVID-19 further, but that doesn’t mean your activity levels have to suffer. With a little bit of creativity and a sprinkle of self-discipline, you can maintain or improve your physical and mental health until the gym reopens again.
Check out our COVID-19 pandemic resources for more advice and helpful tools to get you through this hard time.