Research shows it only takes 21 days to establish a habit. Like it or not, that means we are all settled into our quarantine routine. If you are anything like me, the only thing certain about the first two weeks was happy hour. Then came the relentless juggle of virtual school, worries about job certainty, endless news coverage, and finally the stay-at-home order. Fast forward a few weeks and now there is talk of re-opening the world. What habits will stay with you post-quarantine? I have a strong argument in favor of exercise, and lucky for you, it is not too late to make movement a habit.
Exercise is medicine
The medical experts have always promoted the benefits of exercise, but in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it may be more important than ever. Just last week, the University of Virginia Medical School released a report showing that exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a major cause of COVID-19 deaths. During exercise, our muscles release a powerful antioxidant that protects and prevents tissue damage from dangerous free radicals. Researchers are even looking at this antioxidant as a possible treatment for ARDS and many other diseases. It is no joke that isolation and confinement can increase cortisol, a stress hormone. The more cortisol in our system, the slower our immune system produces T-cells that attack viruses and rogue cells that could damage our bodies. Simply put, slower production and less of the good guys with the threat of bad guys around equals a higher chance of getting sick. You guessed it, exercise decreases cortisol and mobilizes our immune system to attack the bad guys. This is huge! Every single person can increase their chance of survival against coronavirus, and heck, many other dangerous diseases by doing something as simple as taking a walk several times a week.
Exercise will keep you sane!
Endorphins produced during a workout are my favorite benefit. These natural chemicals are mood boosters whose no. 1 job is cheering you up and cheering you on during and after a workout. This pandemic makes us all more vulnerable to depression and anxiety than ever before, and yet again, exercise is here to help if we just make the simple choice to move. And exercise doesn’t discriminate. Endorphins pulse through your veins when you walk, run, dance, swim, surf, lift weights, etc. Loneliness is also a real problem in the age of social distancing, and all things point to social distancing being the norm in a re-opened world. Exercise provides a much-needed connection and cultivates relationships. Many local businesses are offering live fitness classes via Zoom. This is a perfect time to try something new from the comfort of your own home. Live classes give real-time access to a trained instructor. I highly recommend joining with your video turned on to increase the connection with your fellow classmates. Plus, signing up for an online class creates accountability and adds structure to an unpredictable day. Stress also interrupts our sleep patterns. It is no wonder people are having trouble falling asleep when they don’t know how long this pandemic will last and what life will be like after. It’s a vicious cycle. Without adequate rest, our bodies are more susceptible to all the bad guys, and our chances our getting sick increase. Adding physical exercise to your routine will make it easier for your body to unwind and rest.
Exercise has, is, and always will be a key to being healthy and happy. This pandemic has leveled the playing field. No one can argue they don’t have the time anymore. Many forms of exercise require no equipment or additional cost. Consider this your kick in the pants to get moving and make it a lasting habit. It could end up saving your life.