Exercising has many benefits for physical and mental health, and staying healthy and fit during these stressful and confusing times can lead to a happier mindset, according to University health experts.
“Exercise triggers the release of neurotransmitters in your brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and beta-endorphins and lowers the levels of stress hormones,” said Meredith Hayden, associate executive director of the Elson Student Health Center. “Exercise has also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression and improve memory.”
With government-mandated stay-at-home or safer-at-home orders across most of the country, going to the gym or a workout class may not be available for most students, but there is a wide variety of ways to stay fit while at home.
If you are struggling to find motivation to work out on your own, setting goals may help keep you excited. For example, setting a goal to run a certain amount of miles each week will keep you working towards something. Similarly, setting a goal to lift a certain amount of weight and tracking your progress will act as an incentive to push yourself.
“Exercise should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity — e.g. walking — or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity — e.g. running — per week,” the Student Health website read. “As long as you are remaining socially distanced, you can still go outside to go on walks or jogs.”
While social distancing may keep you away from the gym, working out outdoors is a great alternative option.
As this pandemic continues, it will become increasingly important to get outside of the house and get fresh air as a way to ease the sense of isolation that may occur as a result of quarantine and social distancing. Walking, running and hiking are great for all levels of workouts and all types of athletes. A combination of walking and jogging can ease you into running if you have not run in a while.
Caroline Wilson, third-year Curry student and member of the club field hockey team, has been getting creative with her at home workouts since the field hockey season was canceled.
“My brothers and I set up a gym in our backyard, which has been a great way to stay fit and spend time together outside in the fresh air,” Wilson said. “We run sprints on the grass, jump rope, do push ups, step ups and air squats.”
Yoga can also be done indoors and outdoors and does not require any previous experience. Finding yoga tutorials on YouTube is an easy way to get started. It incorporates a variety of poses that focus on stretching and strengthening and can also help alleviate stress by releasing tensions from the muscles and clearing the mind.
Ab workouts are some of the easiest to do at home. Various household objects can act as equipment for the perfect workout. Paint cans, textbooks and laundry detergent make great weights and can easily be adjusted to fit your skill level. If you have stairs in your home, make a cardio workout out of going up and down the stairs. For a more inclusive workout, add abs into a full-body workout.
Full-body workouts are a great way to incorporate a number of exercises that strengthen your entire body, and you can tailor your workout to focus more on arms, legs or abs if you want to work on a specific area. There is an abundance of workout tutorials online that can help with exercise motivation. Similarly, there are many workouts that use body weight as a substitute for equipment, making it easy to workout at home.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of chaos and confusion, but it is important to settle into a routine that includes some type of exercise. Exercising is an integral part of staying happy and healthy.
“Exercise is related to positive affect and well-being, things like life satisfaction, vitality, subjective happiness, optimism, hope and positive emotions and can increase your ability to cope with stress and negative life events,” Hayden said.
During these stressful times, find activities that are meaningful and stay connected with friends and family, as staying healthy and active will help create a positive experience mentally and physically during quarantine.