| StarNews Correspondent
Regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind, and with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, taking care of one’s physical and mental health is vital.
However, as many spend more time at home and some gym-goers and people who frequent recreation centers are unable to or hesitant to work out at their usual places, for some it may be challenging to maintain a consistent routine of exercise or to feel motivated to engage in physical activity.
LaMaine Williams, a certified personal trainer since 1999 and owner of Train with LaMaine, encourages people to make exercise and staying physically active a priority even at home. Williams, who provides one-on-one training and trains clients at Cambridge Fitness Wilmington, talked about the importance of physical activity and ways to stay fit and active amid pandemic-related changes.
1. Exercise offers immediate and long-term benefits
Williams said it’s important for people to continue physical activity and exercise during the pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity is one of the most important things someone can do for their health, and moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, is generally safe for most.
According to the CDC, some immediate health benefits of a single session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for adults include improved sleep quality, reduced feelings of anxiety and reduced blood pressure.
Long term, regular physical activity can help manage weight, reduce risk of developing dementia, reduce risk of depression, lower risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and eight types of cancers, improve bone heath and muscle strength and increase balance, flexibility and fitness.
2. Exercise can relieve stress and improve your mood
“Working out and staying active is mentally good for people,” Williams said, adding exercise offers a healthy way to relieve stress.
According to the CDC, stress related to the pandemic can cause fear and worries about someone’s health and the health of loved ones, finances and more, disruptions in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions and increased use of substances, including tobacco and/or alcohol.
Physical activity can help relieve some of this stress. According to the National Institute on Aging, research shows physical activities such as walking, biking, dancing, yoga or Tai Chi can help improve one’s mood and overall emotional well being, reduce feelings of depression and stress, increase energy level and improve sleep.
The National Institute of Mental Health said walking 30 minutes daily can help boost your mood and improve your health.
3. Walk and use what you have at home to stay fit
From Peloton bikes, treadmills and weights, Williams said in these times people can exercise well at home using equipment they have, and equipment isn’t always necessary.
“Many have work out equipment they’ve collected over the years and have never used, and now is the time to use it,” Williams said. “The main thing I tell people to do is to get outside and walk. It’s simple, and it’s good for you mentally to spend time outside. If you have 10 minutes, walk 10 minutes. If you have 30 minutes, walk 30 minutes — it all counts.”
Williams said while walking outside he encourages his clients to practice mindfulness and savor the moment by taking time to notice things in nature they are usually too busy to notice.
4. Find variety for motivation, and try new things to stay fit
During the pandemic staying physically active and working out can sometimes mean getting creative with an exercise routine at home or doing something you have never tried before.
Being flexible, Williams said, has also extended to some fitness trainers.
“With the pandemic, a lot of people have been more willing to do things they wouldn’t normally do, and that’s something you should take advantage of,” said Williams. “Before, some trainers would only work in the gym, but now due to COVID some are willing to go to your home.”
Williams, who said he has trained individuals at their homes when gyms were closed, said reaching out to trainers and massage therapists to see if they will come to you is an option to try.
Williams said some social media sites can be a fun source of motivation for working out.
“During this pandemic, I’ve started watching TikTok,” Williams said. “They have a lot of different fitness challenges, and I’m working out a lot with those. TikTok, Instagram, and different websites feature many people working out on them, and that’s a fun way to stay motivated.”
According to American Heart Association News, some other creative ways to exercise during the pandemic include participating in online classes and workout groups, using fitness apps, and YouTube videos that demonstrate aerobic activity, strength training, yoga and Pilates and hosting regular virtual Zoom dance parties with friends.
5. Don’t wait for the perfect time — set a time and do it
Williams recommends scheduling times for physical activity, including walking.
“Don’t wait for the perfect time to start exercising,” Williams said. “With a lot of people working from home, I encourage them to pencil in their work out time and take workout breaks. Do your squats, lunges, push-ups, things you can do without special equipment. But don’t wait until you have time. Just do it, even if you only have 10 minutes. That will help with your physical and mental wellbeing.”
According to Williams, part of staying fit includes taking care of your mental health needs, especially with the additional stress, anxiety and even depression associated the pandemic.
“If a person is really struggling (emotionally) they should seek counseling, especially during these COVID times,” he said. “Counseling can help provide you with tools to cope.”