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Franciscan Health offers guide to staying active during colder months and isolation

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Our lives changed dramatically when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. To best prevent the spread of infection, schools and businesses closed, masking mandates were instated and social distancing measures were taken. Most Americans found themselves working and learning from home.

While focusing on preventing the spread of the disease, there have been hidden challenges. Consequences of the sudden restrictions implemented on daily life include worry, isolation, greater family and work stress and excessive screen time. One of the biggest costs of isolation is trading physical activity for more sedentary behaviors like sitting, reclining or lying down for long periods of time. With current facility restrictions and more down time, people are spending more time in front of screens — whether for leisure or for working or learning from home.

“Many individuals are left without an outlet or any direction on how to continue to be physically active,” said Jordan Devenney, Franciscan Health athletic trainer. “This poses a significant problem because we know the result of more time spent sitting and less time spent being active results in an increased risk for a number of serious long-term health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. By being more active and sitting less, we not only can protect ourselves from these conditions but we can also prevent things like falls and osteoporosis and treat other conditions like arthritis, certain cancers, chronic pain, depression and anxiety.”

Some physical activity is better than none. Even if you only have a few minutes here or there over the course of a day, it will add up over time to create positive outcomes. Avoid public places and remember to wash your hands consistently.

If you did not exercise regularly prior to COVID-19 or are currently not meeting these recommendations, make sure to start slowly with low intensity exercises and adjust as you progress. Start with shorter amounts like 5 to 10 minutes and gradually build from there. Gradual build ups will help reduce the risk of injury. You can also reduce your risk of injury by remembering to drink water and listen to your body. If you experience pain that does not get better with rest, seek further evaluation and medical attention through your healthcare provider.

What can I do to stay active in the winter?

It can be tough to stay motivated to continue exercising during the winter months. If you go outside, make sure you protect your skin and limbs by layering up in clothes that wick moisture to prevent unnecessary chilling. Bright colors will also help others to be more aware of you if you live in a busy area.

If you don’t want to brave the weather, there are plenty of activities you can do indoors. Here are a few tricks for turning your home into your own gym:

• Everyday items like backpacks, crock pots, soup cans, jugs and broomsticks can easily become vehicles for making body weight exercises more challenging.

• Write down 10-20 exercises on scraps of paper and put them in a bowl. When you have a few minutes, pull out a handful and perform each exercise at your own pace for a minute each. Five exercises in five minutes. Take turns pulling out exercises with your family for a fun fitness game.

• Check out videos to learn new moves such as instructional videos for beginner’s salsa, yoga, ballroom dancing and more. Crank up the music and forget all about the weather outside.

• For a quick cardio workout, take your favorite exercise and perform for 20 seconds then rest for 10 seconds. Repeating this eight times for four minutes total is called a Tabata and is a great way to get your heart rate up even with something as simple as marching in place, moving from sitting to standing or boxing away those winter blues.

• Interested in a new kind of exercise? Now is the perfect time to try. Experiment from the comfort of your own home in a judgement free zone with online Zoom classes from your local gyms or bigger national organizations.

The key is to move and move often, no matter your age or ability.

For more information about how to stay active during winter months, contact Franciscan Health Rehabilitation Services at 765-423-6885.

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