Can Exercise Help With the Stress From the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Stress Management

There is no doubt that everyone is experiencing a very high level of stress, reduced activity, and eating comfort foods during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Understandably, we are all experiencing feelings of fear and anxiety over how we are going to pay our bills, go shopping for groceries, take care of our loved ones, take care of our 4 legged friends during this pandemic.  We have no idea who long we will be asked to practice social distancing.  We are relying on technology heavily at this time to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe and across the street.  Everyone’s life has changed and this makes us very uncomfortable. 

We all need to change our mindset during the chaos. Being uncomfortable can be useful.  It will force you to make choices.  Those choices, although difficult to make at first,  could be a move in a positive direction. 

Exercise can help you cope with the stresses of social distancing and working from home. Making exercise a priority is a very positive choice for many reasons.  

Exercise has been proven to be beneficial for stress.  This statement has been proved for years in study after study.  Exercise produces neurotransmitters called endorphins in your brain.  Endorphins are chemicals that interact with the brain and the nervous system.  Endorphins are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters that you experience when you get the “runner’s high” or squat a PR or finish your first 5K race.  

After you finish a workout, a game of hoops, finish a hard training run, you probably forgot about what as stressing you out when you were lacing up your shoes.

Exercise also improves your self-esteem and mood. 

How did you feel after you ran those miles on the pavement?  How did you feel after you finished your leg day at the gym?  Exercise can also help reduce mild depression and anxiety.    

Exercise during this time is critical in helping you to deal with the stress and isolation so many of us are experiencing during this pandemic.  

We all know the benefits that exercise has on our bodies.  I think it’s more important to highlight the benefits that we need during this pandemic.  

In some studies that were conducted by Dr. Jeffrey A. Woods and his team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), found that exercise did have positive effects in mice that were infected with influenza.  Dr. Woods’ research focuses on exercise on the immune system, the gut microbiome, and aging.  

They found that 30 minutes of moderate endurance exercise a day could protect mice from death from influenza. 

Woods and his team did a 10-month long study on older adults to see if prolonged regular exercise could improve the effects of the influenza vaccination.  The older adult population is more at risk of contracting influenza.  They found that regular exercise could improve the responses of the influenza vaccine in the older adult population.

Based on these studies and the many obvious benefits to exercise, it would be prudent to add exercise into your day during the coronavirus pandemic.  If you have been told by your doctor that you do have medical conditions that could inhibit exercise, please follow the recommendations established by your doctor.  If you are in doubt if you should exercise, consult your primary care physician.  

How long should you exercise and what should you do?

The study that I noted was a test on mice.  The test indicated 30 minutes of exercise.  If you are sedentary, you will need to consult your physician for guidelines.  Thirty minutes of exercise could mean walking down the street from your home.  Depending on where you live and what your local, state and federal government has mandated for social isolation, you may or may not be able to do any exercise outside.  If you only have 15 minutes, than getting in a few exercises is better than not doing any exercise.  

You can do plenty of indoor exercises if you can't exercise outside.  These exercises use minimal equipment. My website has videos and blogs of exercises and programs that can give you some ideas for home workouts.  You can also apply these to your workouts in a gym.  

I have several clients that do a combination of online and in-person training.  During this pandemic, they have now transferred over to online training.  Many are faced with gym closures, federal, state, and local government stay-at-home mandates that impact exercising.  Starting an online training program can be a great choice to make at this time or at any time.  

I customize programming based on what equipment you have available in your home.  If you have a gym membership, I can customize your workouts using what is available to you when you can return to the gym.  You can find several Personal Training options that will fit your needs at the link.

My takeaway point is to make exercise a priority during this time.  You will feel better physically and mentally.  Trust me. 

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