As we continue to fight through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember to maintain ourselves both physically and mentally.
Maintaining a healthy amount of physical activity will not only check the box of maintaining physical health, but will also have a positive impact on our mental health as well; and here’s the kicker: You don’t have to do a 90-minute sweat till you drop fat burning mega-routine to accomplish this benefit, all that you need is a little time, a little inspiration, and feel-good chemicals will soon be rushing your way!
Physically: Your body’s muscles and bones are very much so a “use it or lose it” type of system, and if they are not properly maintained, they can experience atrophy, which can result in the loss of good mass (muscle and bone), in addition to a decline of physical dexterity and effectiveness. Here are two likely culprits for atrophy for someone in the COVID world:
• Decreased prioritization: Or bodies have an astronomical ability to self-regulate and self-adjust, however, sometimes our baseline “programming” works against us.
Although maintaining the mass of both our muscles and bones provides immense benefits to our health, such as weight management, chronic disease mitigation, better stability, and more functionality; spending too much time being sedentary has an illusionary effect on our body’s self-regulating and adjusting systems, making it appear that our body can do with a reduced amount of good mass.
• Forced metabolization: The high protein content of muscle allows for it to store a significant amount of energy. Although not the body’s preferred energy source, it will break down muscle to use it as energy when no other option is in adequate supply, thus causing atrophy.
Even if you don’t own a single weight or resistance band, there are plenty of ways to maintain a healthy body at home. While good mass is critically important to our health, the exercise we do to maintain it provides its own set of benefits including increased cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) function, better neurological control (balance and coordination), and assistance in building/maintaining a healthy mental state.
Mentally: Exercise itself releases endorphins that have a mood-lifting effect, hence why they are often called “feel-good chemicals.” These effects are so profound, that exercise is known to be immensely helpful in the treatment of depression, seeing an increased amount of prescription and developments clinically.
Feel free to use these exercises as a starting point or addition to your home exercise routine! If you feel like you are at a loss, and want to make sure that you’re not only being safe, but also effective during exercise, I highly recommend reaching out to a professional, who will be more than happy to help you develop a program. Start slow and build your way up! A good initial goal to start is three sets of 10 repetitions per workout, including several different movements. From there feel free to be creative!
*If you do not know if you are healthy enough to exercise on your own, be sure to consult your physician before attempting any of these exercises or beginning an at-home workout routine.*
The body weight squat: Keep your feet firmly planted to the ground, and do not let yourself shift too much weight to either your toes or heels. While squatting down make sure your knees do not extend past your toes, that your glutes push backwards, and to keep your head and chest up (I always tell my patients and athletes to “pretend like you have a laser beam sticking out of your chest, and always keep it pointing at the wall and not the floor).
If a general squat is too difficult for you, do a sit to stand where you start sitting down (perhaps in your favorite chair?) and stand up using the same mechanics described above. Be sure not to “rock” into standing up, as the additional momentum will not help with muscular development.
The pallof press: Hold a small weighted item (doesn’t have to be a weight; for optimal results, use a band) in front of your solar plexus (a few inches above your belly button, just below your sternum). Push it out in front of you in a controlled manner, not allowing the weight to travel in anything but a straight line. Oddly enough, this movement primarily strengthens your core’s muscles, as you have to stabilize to make sure your weight doesn’t travel off the intended path.
Nic Seaver is a neuromuscular specialist and the executive director of Basin Clinic in Naturita.