Social Distancing and Exercise

By Dr. Benedict Nwachukwu

These are stressful times, especially with the uncertainty of COVID 19, the economy, work from home pressures and the evolving requirements for social distancing. Despite an inability to carry on your usual routine, it is important that individuals stay active, even while social distancing and working from home.

Activity and exercise have a direct effect on stress, mood and can provide immediate benefits that are important during these uncertain times. Physical activity can improve sleep, sharpen focus and help reduce the risk of common chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Orthopedically, it is important to keep the bones and joints in the body mobile and strong; that is why I recommend daily activity while socially distancing.

How can I stay active at home?

There is no need to order special equipment, you can stay active at home simply by following an exercise video or by doing yoga or Pilates. You can get creative with a dance video or even by using things around the house for weight training. I typically recommend a commitment to daily exercise by following a routine that works for you and your schedule. High repetitions can be helpful and you should do each exercise 10-12 times. You can even walk/march in place or do jumping jacks between sets. Here are some exercises that are great for getting you going:

  • Squats
  • Lunges and Reverse Lunges
  • Kneeling push-ups, graduating to full push-ups as you get stronger
  • Lifting exercises using household items such as canned goods, laundry detergent bottles, water bottles or milk containers.
    • Bicep curls
    • One-arm arrows
    • Arm lifts
  • Triceps dips
  • Plank exercises

How much exercise do I need during quarantine?

It is important to remember that even a small amount of exercise is better than none at all. Doctors agree that adults need a minimum of 150 minutes a week for aerobic exercise, plus 2 days of muscle strengthening is ideal. That means just 30 minutes a day can help keep you healthy and will boost your immune system. Change up your routine by walking during conference calls, standing more than sitting, and moving around your house or apartment to get your step count up.

Children and teens need 60 minutes a day of exercise that can include walking, running, dancing, or playing. All activity can add up, even indoors where space is limited. Ask children to show you their favorite gym activity, do pushups or jumping jacks or have a contest with other children and teens to see who can jog in place the longest.

Is it safe to go outside to exercise?

It is important to check the latest guidelines from your local health department and community or state leaders before you make a decision of go outside for exercise. In most areas of the United States, it is safe to go outside for a walk or run as long as social distancing guidelines are followed. If there are too many people to safely practice social distancing outdoors, then it is most-likely safer to find ways to exercise in your own home.

Sometimes exercise outdoors can come through necessity, like walking your dog, for example. If you must go outside and social distancing requirements are difficult, wear a mask or face covering to minimize your risk. Practicing good hygiene, washing hands and not touching your face are all important means for keeping yourself healthy.

Are there physical activities I should avoid?

You can participate in many of the same activities you’ve always done, but some modifications may have to be made to do them at home, or within safe-distancing parameters. Some easy at home fixes could include:

  • Stream a group workout online or in your home instead of attending a group fitness facility.
  • Try body weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, dips or lunges.
  • Get creative with household items to use as weights such as water, laundry detergent, canned goods, bricks or rocks.

Staying active while socially distancing not only benefits you physically but will help keep a healthy mental state. As quarantine times extend across New York and the rest of the country, it can be stressful to remain positive, especially for individuals who are social by nature. Maintaining an exercise regimen can help you deal with social distancing, mentally and physically.

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