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How to Stay Active While Social Distancing

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4 Types of Exercises to Keep You Healthy

Whether you work out at your gym, walk the trails at your local park or attend physical therapy as part of a medical therapy program, you know daily exercise is an essential component of staying healthy.

Now more than ever, while you’re practicing social distancing (also known as physical distancing), it’s important to maintain some type of exercise routine even if it’s right at home.

Any amount of physical activity has benefits, and the key is to focus on the types of exercises you’re doing. Take advantage of at least one exercise in each category below. Go for the "big 4":

Endurance Exercises: Support Your Heart and Lungs

Endurance exercise expands your breathing and increases your heart rate, and any activity that increases your heart rate counts.

This includes:

  • Walking or jogging — During this time of social distancing you can still go outside and walk. If you would rather stay indoors and don’t have a treadmill, try walking or jogging in place while you binge your latest series on Netflix.
  • Yard work or gardening — If you have a yard, now’s the time to get it ready for summer.
  • High knees and jumping jacks — Yep, those old phys ed standbys still work! Start slowly and work your way up. Nothing gets your heart rate up quicker than jumping jacks. You can even encourage your kids to join in.

Low-Impact Endurance Option

For those recovering from surgery or who may have physical limitations, ask your doctor for a list of exercises you can do. Ideas include chair arm raises and chair leg raises. Any amount counts!

Strength Training: Maintain Your Muscles

Strength training helps build and maintain muscles. The National Institutes of Health recommends 1 hour of strength training per week. If it’s easier, you can break that up into 10 minutes per day.

If you’ve already established a regular exercise routine, try push-ups, planks, squats, lunges, crunches and sit-ups. Be sure to use proper form and protect your back and neck.

Low-Impact Strength Options

Wall push-ups or arm raises are low-impact options that may be good alternatives for seniors or those with limited mobility.

To do wall push-ups, stand close to a wall and place both hands on the wall in front of you. Take a breath and bend your elbows to bring your body close to the wall. Take another breath, then push your body back to standing.

Arm raises may be done sitting on a chair or standing with both feet firmly on the ground. Using one soup can or small water bottle in each hand, raise them over your head slowly, then bring them down. You can also do arm raises without weights. Look for videos on YouTube to ensure proper form, or ask your doctor or physical therapist for instructions.

Balance Exercises: Maintain Your Stability

Balance exercises help you maintain your stability. Yoga and tai chi incorporate the concept of balance into every move. Here are just a few basics to help you get started:

  • Single leg balance — Try lifting one foot off the floor, and stand to the count of 5 or 10. If you need help, use a chair or wall for stability.
  • Stand Like a Mountain — Put both feet flat on the floor, hands at your side, posture upright. Focus on the pose and stand solid while breathing deeply for 10 breaths.
  • Standing Marches — Stand in place and march slowly, using a chair or the wall for stability if needed.

Low-Impact Balance Option

Sit on a chair and slowly lift your right leg and your right arm at the same time. Bring them down slowly together, then do the same on your left side.

Flexibility Exercises: Move More Freely

Flexibility exercises help you move more freely. These include stretching and lengthening moves. Make sure not to push yourself too hard when stretching, and let off if you feel any pain. Options include:

  • Ankle and Wrist Rolls — These can be done while you’re watching TV or lying in bed.
  • Neck Stretch — Nod your head slowly, like you’re saying no. Alternately, move your head up and down slowly, as if you’re saying yes.
  • Touch Your Toes — This can be done either sitting on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you or standing up.

Low-Impact Flexibility Option

Stretching and lengthening exercises can all be done while sitting on a chair.

If You Can’t Do It All, Just Move More

No matter what, any amount of physical activity has its advantages, so just plan to move as much as you can. Exercise helps improve bone and heart health. It also decreases the risk of developing cancer and dementia, keeping you as healthy as possible.

Here are 5 ways to get your steps in while social distancing >

Remember to always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise, especially if you have physical limitations or recently had surgery.

Social distancing is difficult for all of us. Think creatively, and get as much movement into your life as you can!

Elizabeth Renza-Stingone, MD, FACS

Dr. Renza is a board-certified surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery. Her expertise includes laparoscopic bariatric operations (gastric bypass and gastric sleeve), fore-gut surgeries (anti-reflux procedures, hiatal hernia and paraesophageal hernia repairs), and laparoscopic and robotic herniorrhaphy.

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