Months of staying home due to the global pandemic is starting to harm our health.
Without the natural hustle and bustle of our normal lives, we’re sitting more and moving less. And it’s starting to show.
Many people are even putting on the “quarantine 15″—a result of too little movement and a few too many attempts at baking homemade banana bread.
Weight gain aside, the main reason we need to build more movement into our daily lives and start taking control of our health has nothing to do with appearance.
Instead, we need to start thinking of exercise as a way to keep our mental and emotional health in check.
Exercise Helps Our Mental Health
Most people exercise because they want to lose weight or look a certain way. But the real benefits of exercise have nothing to do with looks.
Countless studies have shown that exercise helps with anxiety and depression, which so many of us are struggling with right now.
Movement also helps us deal with stress and manage our emotions. Because exercise is itself a stressor, the more we exercise, the more our bodies learn to handle stress. So when we come up against actual stressors (like now, when the world feels turned upside down), we’re able to navigate them without getting overwhelmed.
As if less anxiety and stress aren’t reasons enough to get moving, here are a few more benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss:
- Ease stress, overwhelm, and feelings of distraction
- Manage mild panic attacks
- Clear brain fog
- Increase energy and concentration
- Increase motivation and willpower
- Increase feelings of hope and perspective
One positive benefit of this pandemic is that I’ve witnessed a change in the conversation around working out solely for appearance reasons and instead exercising because it makes us feel better.
Because nobody knows when the world will go back to normal, but they do know that they experience anxiety, reduced motivation, and brain fog if they don’t move enough during the day.
Being stuck at home, alone or with family or roommates, and not moving much has detrimental effects on our health, both physically and emotionally. But, unlike what’s going on in the external world, we can control how much we’re moving.
Something is Always Better Than Nothing
If you can’t always muster up the motivation to do your regular workouts right now, don’t be too hard on yourself. Something is always better than nothing, and you’ll get the mental health benefits either way.
Aim for quality and consistency with your workouts, and don’t worry about whether you’re making giant breakthroughs or hitting a bunch of new personal records right now.
Aside from planned workouts, try and build more movement into your day. If you’re working from home, make sure to get up at least once every hour and move around for a bit. Stretch, pace, twist, play with your dog, jump around a little—just get moving.
No matter what, aim to get outside for a walk at least once a day. Outdoor exercise has even more added mental and emotional benefits. Try to get out in nature if you can, but if that’s not possible, you’ll still get the benefits of outdoor exercise by walking around your neighbourhood.
What Type of Exercise to Do
There’s no one-size-fits-all perfect workout type for everyone right now. Some people may prefer the mind-quieting effects of higher intensity exercise, while others may find solace in slower movements like yoga, mobility work, stretching, or walks. Ideally, you’ll do a combination of both, along with lots of long walks.
If you’re looking for resources for workouts you can do at home, The 12-Minute Athlete book and app contain hundreds of efficient high-intensity and bodyweight workouts you can do using minimal equipment at home or a nearby park.
Whether it’s a full workout, a walk, or something low keys like cleaning or gardening, make a point to do some sort of movement every single day.
Krista is the author of the new book, The 12-Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster, and Stronger Using HIIT and Your Bodyweight and a leading fitness and mindset expert. She is the founder of 12 Minute Athlete and the 12 Minute Athlete app as well as a writer, TV guest/host, and motivational speaker. The book is available online or anywhere that books are sold.