Exercise and COVID-19

Just in case you haven’t heard, there is a little thing currently having an impact on the entire globe….the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, it’s here, it’s real, and it’s causing major health and economic problems world wide. Governments are taking measures to try and control the outbreak, ranging from social distancing recommendations to country wide lockdowns for entire populations.

Here in Australia, restrictions aren’t as severe as some other countries just yet, but we are being encouraged to work from home if possible, and stay at home unless heading out for necessities.

But what about exercise? Are Australians still allowed outdoors to get some much needed physical activity?

SPORTING VENUES CLOSED

As of midday on Monday the 23rd of March, all indoor sporting venues Australia wide, as well as gyms, were told they were no longer able to remain open. In addition, pretty much every sporting body nation wide announced that any upcoming events, including both training and competition, would be put on hold.

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For many people, this put a bit of a restriction on the way they get sweaty with a bit of exercise. But of course, it doesn’t meant that people need to stop their physical activity completely.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

Obviously, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But at times like this, it is even more important to keep fit and get regular exercise.

With the global pandemic that is COVID-19, both physical and mental health are affected. Becoming more sedentary through the “stay at home” recommendation can reduce physical fitness; while the constant news updates, panic buying leaving supermarket shelves bare and never ending news reports about the virus are having a big impact on people’s mental health.

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From a physical perspective, regular exercise is a good way to help boost your immune system. Low intensity, non strenuous activities such as walking can increase the functioning of the immune system, while regular moderate intensity exercise can actually strengthen the immune system….but it is worth noting that sessions of high intensity exercise can actually reduce the strength of your immune system for up to 72 hours, as your body needs time to rest and recover from your efforts.

From a mental health perspective, exercise has also been shown to have many benefits. Physical activity produces endorphins…..the feelgood chemical! It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, while providing a much needed distraction from the current events of the world.

Many people are setting up home gyms and doing their workouts in their living rooms……and while exercising in the confines of your own home is definitely an option, heading outside is a bit better choice.

OUTSIDE IS STILL AN OPTION, AND IS STILL FREE

Here in Australia, while we are being asked to stay at home as much as possible, we are still allowed to venture to the great outdoors for some much needed exercise. In addition to the benefits provided by regular exercise described above, outdoor activities have a few more advantages.

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When you head outside into the sunshine, your body naturally produces Vitamin D. This essential vitamin has many benefits, including boosting your immune system and improving your mental health.

Outdoor exercise, often referred to as green exercise, provides even more positive health benefits than indoor exercise, as a result of increased motivation, escapism from a confined indoor space and a much needed distraction. This can also help to improve an individual’s mental health….something which we all need right now.

SOCIAL DISTANCING MATTERS

Of course, considering the current pandemic and need for strict population controls in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it is important to consider the current restrictions.

Social distancing is vitally important. Heading outdoors for some much needed exercise is okay….as long as you are doing it by yourself.

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Keep to yourself, and when you come across other people during your activities, be sure to keep a safe distance. When you get back home, wipe down any equipment you may have been using and be sure to give your hands a thorough wash (if you are like me, you will probably jump straight in the shower as soon as you get home anyway!).

WHAT IF I AM QUARANTINED?

Currently in Australia, there are strict quarantine measures in place. The rules vary across each state, but the general consensus is that if you need to self isolate for whatever reason, you need to stay at home. This means no venturing into the great outdoors.

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Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. It is easy enough to set up a small workout area indoors, or if you have a backyard (or even a small balcony) you are still able to get some sun on your skin while doing your workout.

WHAT IF I HAVE COVID-19?

If you are unfortunate enough to be infected with the virus, it’s important to let your body fight the infection. COVID-19 is mostly a respiratory virus. Take a couple of days away from exercising and rest. This will allow your body to fight the infection properly…….get plenty of sleep, keep up your fluid intake, and eat well when you are able to.

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Once you are feeling better, get back into the routine of regular, non strenuous exercise while your body fully recovers…….but remember the current quarantine and self isolation rules, and do this from home!

STAY POSITIVE AND REMAIN ACTIVE

Regular exercise has many benefits….and at times like these, it’s important to remain physically active. Take the dog for a walk around the block, go for a run in the countryside, or jump on a bike and head for a cruise.

If solo exercise means you are struggling to stay motivated, keep in contact with a few friends. Regular encouragement from others, as well as being held accountable to somebody, will help to keep you on track. Staying in contact with your friends and family at times like these is also important to help maintain a bit of sanity!

Just remember the current recommendations regarding social distancing and self isolation. These measures are in place for the benefit of all of us, so be sure to follow them to help reduce the spread of this disease.

So yes, here in Australia, you are still able to head outside and get some much needed exercise. But please, for the sake of everybody, be sensible about it!

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