Julia MacPhee C.H.N.C., Pn1,Certified Holistic Nutritional Coach and Fitness Instructor. www.FitNutrition.ca Follow on Instagram @FitNutritionCa Facebook /FitNutrition
There is something you can do, however, to support your body and your loved ones. Exercise is a green and cheap complementary therapy, which has been proven to improve the immune capacity of the body among other wonderful benefits.
But with many of our daily routines remaining restricted it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise. With the challenges of working from home and limited access to fitness facilities, you may be finding it hard to stick to a workout routine.
Maintaining an exercise routine at home can seem more like a ‘should’ than a ‘want to’ now. And with so many people out of work and struggling financially, staying active can seem like much less of a priority. However, even a small amount of activity can make a huge difference to how well you think and feel. In fact, exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have for staying physically and mentally healthy. And it does not have to cost you anything.
By finding new ways to get moving and stay motivated, you can take charge of your mood and well-being and regain a sense of control during this time of great uncertainty.
What is considered an exercise?
There are many types of physical activity, including walking, swimming, running, gardening, jogging, and dancing, to name a few. And the best way to stay in shape physically and, most importantly, mentally during these uncertain times of COVID 19 is to continue physical activity. Even every little bit done consistently is better than none.
I recommend that you find an activity that brings you joy, something you will look forward to. It will be different for everyone, and that is what makes us unique.
Remember, you do not have to run a marathon to be active, you don’t have to lift weights, if it is not your cup-of-tea. Staying active simply means continuing to move your body the way it is built to move, in as many ways, in all different planes.
Being active has been shown to have many health benefits, both physically and mentally.
- Exercise and your immune system
While being fit won’t prevent you from catching the virus, it does have many other protective effects. Exercise can strengthen your immune system, something that is particularly important at this time.
Your immune supporting and pathogen fighting cells are housed within your lymphatic system. Lymphatic system’s job is to move lymph around the body to collect toxins, dead cells, pathogens and safely eliminate them from your body. Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system does not have a “pump” to do this important job. The only way to move the lymph around is through movement, big or small will do the job. The “milking” action of the muscles gets the lymphatic system moving to get rid of harmful substances that we come across every day.
There is a BUT!
Don’t overdo it. While moderate physical activity supports immune function, too much intense activity—especially if you are not used to it—may have the opposite effect and suppress your immune system.
- Exercise Can Make You Feel Happier
It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It can also increase brain sensitivity to the hormone serotonin -the happy neurotransmitter-which relieve feelings of depression.
Additionally, exercise can increase the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain.
Additionally, Endorphins revitalize your mind and body, and it can help to improve all aspects of your health.
- It Can Help With Weight Loss
Exercise is crucial to supporting a fast metabolism and burning more calories per day, aiding with weight loss.
Many of our normal activities changed in the past few months- working from home, walking and moving less during the day, not being able to “hit the gym” on the way home from work. Plus all the culinary adventures we participated in during the isolation. It all adds up to our bodies consuming more energy than spending, resulting in unfavorable weight gain.
Your body spends energy in three ways: digesting food, exercising and maintaining basic body functions like your heartbeat and breathing- called Basal Metabolic Rate.
Regular exercise has been shown to increase your metabolic rate, which will burn more calories and help you lose weight. It’s about calories in vs. Calories out.
- It Is Good for Your Muscles and Bones
Unrelated to COVID-19, physical activity, in general, helps you build muscles and strong bones. It may also help prevent osteoporosis.
As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass and function, which can lead to injuries and disabilities. Practicing regular physical activity is essential to reducing muscle loss and maintaining strength as we age. Physical activity, such as weightlifting, can stimulate muscle building when paired with adequate protein intake. (See my previous article on the importance of protein)
Also, exercise especially weight bearing exercise, like lifting weights or yoga, helps build bone density when we are younger, in addition to helping prevent osteoporosis, or bone mass and calcium loss later in life.
- It Can Increase Your Energy Levels
Engaging in regular physical activity can increase your energy levels. And who doesn’t want more energy these days? This is true even in people with persistent fatigue and those suffering from serious illnesses.
One study found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue for 36 healthy people who had reported persistent fatigue https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18277063/
- It Can Help With Relaxation and Sleep Quality
Feelings of worry, fear, uncertainty are so familiar to most of us these days. You find yourself tossing and turning in bed all night, checking the clock to only find that it is 2 am and you have not been able to shut your mind off and drift off to a well-deserved sleep.
Regular physical activity, regardless of whether it is aerobic or a combination of aerobic and resistance training, can help you sleep better and feel more energized during the day. For an additional benefit, combine the activity with being outside, in the fresh air, among the nature and in the sunlight.
The energy depletion that occurs during exercise stimulates recuperative processes during sleep, aiding in improved quality of sleep.
There is a BUT. Don’t overdo it! Avoid vigorous exercise before bed, instead chose to engage in restorative yoga practice, or gentle stretching, for example.
This is all great, but where do I start?
Being a habits-based coach, I get this question a lot.
I strongly believe that action builds motivation! And not vice versa.
Start small, start with manageable 5-minute small actions that you can sustain consistently and build from there.
For example: get your runners out the night before and set them by the front door.
Park further away from the store, to get a few extra steps in your day
Take the stairs instead of the elevator, adding one flight at a time.
Pick your gym clothes the night before.
It only takes 5 minutes but these small actions will have a powerful effect.
The Bottom Line
- Continue moving your body
- Choose an activity that brings you joy.
- Remember, that any movement, is better that no movement at all.
- Move often
- Don’t overdo it! Moderate physical activity supports your body, while intense activity without proper recovery may have the opposite effect.
- Avoid vigorous physical activity before bed
- Take small actions towards fitting more movement into your day.
- Action builds motivation!
Stay healthy, stay happy. Never stop moving.