If the COVID-19 pandemic has brought anything to our lives, it may very well be the opportunity for self-care, stress management and more physical activity. Sadly, for many, it has become a time of stress, weight gain, depression, and decreased activity. Consistently engaging in physical activity throughout one’s life has valuable benefits including the ability to improve mental health, strengthen the body’s ability to fight and recover from infectious diseases, and to maintain or even enhance quality of life.
Staying healthy and living an active lifestyle poses challenges to all Americans. In the U.S., only 19 percent of women and 26 percent of men currently meet the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination, each week. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
Walking, jogging, running, dancing, jumping rope, swimming, and biking are all forms of aerobic physical activity. Lifting weights, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, sprints, burpees, and planks are all forms of muscle-strengthening exercises. Meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity is a form of self-care that can help manage stress, improve mood, prevent weight gain, and contribute to overall health.
Immune systems are critical to fighting infections. During an infection, our immune system finds the virus and attacks it. When we are physically active, working muscles produce compounds that help boost our immune system and make us less susceptible to infections. It is important for adults to move more and sit less. This recommendation from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, is based on new evidence that shows a strong relationship between increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality. All physical activity, especially moderate-to-vigorous activity, can help offset these risks.
Get up, get out, move. Take that first step. Being active is a great way to stay healthy.
The Live COVID SMART blog series was developed to promote resilience in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Contributing authors: Lori Wiggins, Kim Griffin, Beth Kerr, Marcia Brown, Heidi Radunovich, John Diaz, and LaToya J. O’Neal. This work is supported by the Rural Health and Safety Education Program [grant no. 2021-46100-35459].
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018.
Lee SW, Lee J, Moon SY, et al. Physical activity and the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, severe COVID-19 illness and COVID-19 related mortality in South Korea: a nationwide cohort study British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 22 July 2021. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104203