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Exercise
is Medicine

Staying Active During the Coronavirus Pandemic

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states.”
Carol Welch

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can make it challenging to maintain a physically active lifestyle. COVID-19 is spread by someone sneezing or coughing into the air or onto a surface, and then the virus enters and infects a new person through their mouth, nose or eyes. The most up-to-date information about COVID-19 can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

Based on what we know about how the virus moves from one person to another, it is recommended to avoid public gatherings and keep a social distance of 6 feet or more. That, along with advice related to personal care (hand washing, not touching your face) has created concern about exercising in gyms, where hundreds of people are in and out every day.

Those at greatest risk for severe complications of COVID-19 are:

  • older adults (age 65 and older)
  • people with chronic diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease)
  • those with compromised immune systems (such as those going through cancer treatment or with HIV)
Exercise is Medicine ® recommends that individuals, especially those at higher risk of COVID complications, should exercise at home or outdoors while remaining socially distanced. Those choosing to exercise inside a fitness facility should follow CDC safety guidelines:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html
For all of us, young and old, regular physical activity is important for staying healthy! Compared to just sitting around most of the time, moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with better immune function. Regular physical activity can help reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety (which many of us may be feeling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic).
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and 2 sessions per week of muscle strength training. Fit in 2, 5, 10 or 20 minutes, however and wherever you can. Every active minute counts!
Stay positive.
Stay active.

Be smart and safe.

Here are some strategies to maintain physical activity and fitness.

Aerobic Activities

Indoor Activities

Staying home
  • Put some music on and walk briskly around the house or up and down the stairs for 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times per day.
  • Dance to your favorite music.
  • Jump rope (if your joints can handle it).
  • Do an exercise video.
  • Use home cardio machines if you have them.

Outdoor Activities

If allowed by your government
  • Walk or jog around your neighborhood. Stay 6 feet away from others.
  • Be active in a local park. Spending time in nature may enhance immune function. Wash your hands when you get home.
  • Go for a bicycle ride
  • Do gardening and lawn work (Spring is around the corner!).
  • Play active games with your family.

Strength Training

  • Download a strength workout app to your smart phone, such as the 7-Minute Workout (no equipment necessary).
  • Do a strength training video.
  • Perform yoga – deep breathing and mindfulness can also reduce anxiety.
  • Find ways to do simple muscle strengthening exercises around your house such as:
    • Squats or sit-to-stands from a sturdy chair.
    • Push-ups against a wall, the kitchen counter or the floor.
    • Lunges or single leg step-ups on stairs.

Don’t sit all day!

For example: If watching TV, get up during every commercial (or periodically) and do a lap around your home or an active chore. For example, throw some clothes in the laundry, do the dishes or take out the garbage. Feel productive after just one show!

Here are current answers to frequently asked questions about physical activity or exercise and COVID-19:

I’m under quarantine but not infected. Should I limit my physical activity?

There are no recommendations at this time to limit physical activity if you do not have any symptoms. Contact your health care provider if you develop a cough, fever or shortness of breath.

Are there precautions I should take?

The most important strategy to prevent infection is to avoid coming into contact with others who are infected with COVID-19.

Will exercise help prevent me from getting the virus?

Moderate-intensity physical activity can boost your immune system. However high-intensity high-volume training may suppress immune function especially if you are unaccustomed to it. Balance your workout program.

What if I start to have symptoms?

If you begin to have symptoms, follow CDC recommendations. As these recommendations are changing, below is a link to the CDC Symptoms webpage: https://www.cdc.gov/ coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html

What if my kids are home with me?

Being active with kids is the most fun of all! Find activities that you can do together – an active gaming video, basketball in the driveway, go for a walk in the neighborhood.

I’m under quarantine and infected. Should I limit my physical activity?

People who are infected, but without symptoms, can continue light- to moderate-intensity activity. Maintain quarantine to prevent spreading the coronavirus to others. Avoid vigorous intensity activity for 2 weeks after a positive test. If you develop symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath, stop physical activity and reach out to your health care provider.

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Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified risk factors for severe COVID-19, including advanced age, sex (male) and the presence of underlying comorbidities, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. However, there are no data regarding the effect of regular physical activity (PA) on COVID-19 outcomes, even though a lack of PA is a well-documented underlying risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including those associated with severe COVID-19.

Can exercise affect immune function to increase susceptibility to infection?

Multiple studies in humans and animals have demonstrated the profound impact that exercise can have on the immune system. There is a general consensus that regular bouts of short-lasting (i.e. up to 45 minutes) moderate intensity exercise is beneficial for host immune defense, particularly in older adults and people with chronic diseases.

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