Exercising During COVID-19 – Why It’s More Important Than Ever.

Are you less active than normal?

There’s a trend of inactivity in our community. Aside from the obvious health concerns that accompany COVID-19, it’s likely that many Western New Yorkers will find themselves less healthy than they were 3 months ago.

While being confined to our homes protects us from COVID-19, it also can cause a decline in strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness. Even for those who are finding time to get outside and walk, the remainder of their day can be spent sitting.

As we look to move past the current pandemic, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself — and there’s no better way than to exercise.

So how does exercising help? This article will cover:

  1. Why exercise is so important
  2. How exercise helps during a pandemic
  3. Life after COVID-19

Who is most at risk during this time?

Those with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and a compromised immune system. It is more important than ever to pay attention our health and well being.  During times like these, we easily start unhealthy, sedentary habits. If we take this time to try to create new, healthier habits by exercising, we can directly affect those risks and lower them.

Exercise and our Immune System

Exercise plays a large role on our immune system. With exercise, our white blood cells become better at finding and destroying any viral infections and in return, chronic inflammation is reduced.

Mild to moderate exercise can boost your natural killer T-cell levels, which fight against viruses, and exercise has potent systemic anti-inflammatory effects because it affects multiple pathways and systems within the body.

How Exercise Affects our Heart and Lungs

Exercise can also affect our heart and our lungs and improve their abilities to function. With exercise, we can improve the muscles and increase the capacity of those organs to be able to work better with less effort. Therefore, in the case you do start to feel ill, you have more capacity within the organs for them to work more efficiently. 

The Importance of Sleep

Along with exercise, our sleep is very important, we need our bodies to rest and recover every night to be able to fight against any infection. Here are some reasons why sleep is important to us during this time as well. 

  1. Poor sleep can lead to heart disease, cognitive decline, dementia, and a decrease in your immunity, which is the last thing we need. 
  2. Sleep affects your T-cell function, and as stated above, those cells help fight viruses. These cells are more active when we sleep. 
  3. Like T-cells, we need cytokines to help fight off infection and they are produced when we sleep. So poor sleep equals poor cytokine function. 
  4. In studies, it has been shown that if we sleep less than 6 hours a night, we have a higher risk of respiratory infections, and 4-5x higher to develop a cold as well.

Anxiety and Depression

Exercising can also help combat anxiety and depression during this time of social distancing and quarantine. We are stuck in our houses, apartments, unable to see friends and family, all this takes a toll on our mental health as well as our physical health.

While it may be the last thing you want to think about, exercise can help increase your serotonin levels and make you feel happier when you may be feeling down. Therefore, while it may be hard to get moving when the depression and anxiety sets in, please try to get up and move, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Diabetes

If you are a diabetic, I have good news for you! With Type 2 diabetes, most of your symptoms are caused by and lead to more chronic inflammation. Exercise can help better regulate your glucose metabolism, which lessens chronic inflammation. Your muscles are also more sensitive to the effects of insulin after exercise. So, the more you exercise the better your body will respond to insulin.

Conclusion

Therefore, in conclusion, here are some crucial tips for exercising during a pandemic:

  1. Go slow and don’t push too hard, it is not the time to sustain an injury. If you do, please reach out to our therapists first before going to an Emergency room.
  2. Continue social distancing, stay 6-10 feet away from the next person.
  3. Don’t overdo it, you can start light and work your way up.
  4. This pandemic is not going to be over quickly, think of it as a marathon not a sprint so don’t do more than your body can handle.
  5. Avoid very heavy exercise: there is a decrease in your immune function afterward and potentially an increase in risks of upper respiratory infections

Exercise is a very proactive strategy we can do, so get up from the couch and stop worrying. Get moving! Move your arms and legs; get your heart rate up. Whether it’s going for a walk, doing a workout via Zoom with friends, or just dancing in your kitchen with your family, exercise can help throughout this pandemic. Remember, we are all in this together, so work out together whether it’s via video chat or at a park, just keep the social distancing a part of it. We do not have to battle this pandemic alone.

Life After COVID-19

Our main goal is to focus on what life can look like when COVID-19 is over. Will you be stronger? Will you be healthier and pain-free?

As most choose to stay home and use us with online telehealth appointments. The above suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg.

Luckily, insurance companies have made it simple for me and other Physical Therapists to help our community.

Some, like Independent Health, BlueCross, and Univera, have even waived patient copayments and deductibles! And when you consider the appointments are simple to set up and attend — it’s an easy decision to get help.

I can’t encourage you enough to stay moving during these times.

And if you’re interested in having personalized help from a Physical Therapist to help you with your strength, pain, or injuries, then I encourage you to schedule an in-person or online appointment with a Physical Therapist.

Scheduling and set up for appointments is simple — and some insurances, like BlueCross and Independent Health, are waiving co-pays and deductibles.

Here’s what included when you schedule an in-clinic or telehealth visit:

  • A full evaluation by a Physical Therapist that includes a diagnosis and peace of mind for what’s actually going on
  • Range of motion, walking assessment, and strength testing to learn what needs to be addressed to let you heal
  • custom treatment plan that addresses your needs to stop your pain and helps you get your life back
  • Coordination with your doctor to streamline care and ensure you get the result you’re looking for
  • Simple and flexible scheduling for both in-clinic and telehealth visits so you don’t have to miss time from work or your family
  • Easy setup and attendance for both in-clinic and telehealth visits — you can even use your smartphone for a telehealth visit!

When you’re ready to start your recovery, here’s what to do next:

Call (716) 458-1990 to speak to our team directly – they will answer your questions and find a time that works with your schedule.

OR

Click on this blue button to request an appointment online, and our team will call you directly

If you’re struggling with knee pain and you’re ready to start feeling better, this is the perfect opportunity.

You can get the care you need — even if you cannot leave home due to COVID-19.

Call us today to get started – (716) 458-1990

Be Safe & Stay Healthy
Hannah Avery
Physical Therapist Assistant

Luks, Howard J. “Exercise Is More Critical Than Ever During A Pandemic.” Howard J. Luks, MD, 10 Apr. 2020, www.howardluksmd.com/sports-medicine/exercise-health-routines-covid19-pandemic/.

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