During the COVID-19 crisis, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has been adapting and making precautionary changes to campus.
Dr. Scott Ringgenberg, coordinator of the Department of Health and Human Performance at UW-Platteville, stressed the critical importance of staying physically fit during this unprecedented and uncertain time, and offered 10 tips on how to stay active and improve overall health.
“During these trying times, being physical active is fundamental to physical, emotional and psychological health,” said Ringgenberg. “Physical activity includes all forms of active recreation, sports participation, cycling and walking, as well as activities at work and around the home and garden. It doesn’t have to be exercise or sport – playing, dancing, gardening, and even housecleaning and carrying heavy shopping is all part of being physically active.”
Ringgenberg said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many people are very restricted in their movements, it is even more important for people of all ages and abilities to be as active as possible.
“Even taking a short break from sitting and doing 3-5 minutes of physical movement, such as walking or stretching, will help ease muscle strain, relieve mental tension and improve blood circulation and muscle activity,” he said. “Regular physical activity can also help to give the day a routine and be a way of staying in contact with family and friends.” (World Health Organization source: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/be-active-during-covid-19).
Ringgenberg noted that regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind.
“Regular physical activity improves mental health and can reduce the risk of depression, cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia as well as improve overall feelings of wellbeing,” he said. “It is recommended that adults over age 18 should do a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, including muscle-strengthening activities two or more days per week, but any physical activity is better than none. Start with small amounts and gradually increase duration, frequency and intensity over time.” (WHO source: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/be-active-during-covid-19).
Ringgenberg acknowledged that being active during the COVID-19 pandemic is very challenging.
“Because the opportunities to be physically active seem to be more restricted, it is even more important to plan, every day, the ways to be active and to reduce the time spent sitting for long periods,” he said. “Put simply, it is a critical time to ensure we all move more and sit less.”
While finding ways to stay active in a restricted environment can be difficult, Ringgenberg and the Department of Health and Human Performance offered these tips:
- Take a walk. if you cannot go outside, walk around your house. Make sure to use the stairs multiple times to develop muscle strength in your legs. To help determine the number of steps and miles you walk, most smart phones have a step counter, or download an application such as the PACER or Heart Rate Plus. If you’re able to go outside, please follow the guidelines of social distancing.
- Do a HIIT workout. A High Intensity Interval Training workout consists of 5-6 different exercises of short bursts of cardiovascular activity interspersed with body weight exercises. A website search will provide many exercises for varying range of fitness levels and intensities.
- Take a break. While working at home, try to get up and move every 20-30 minutes for 3-5 minutes. During this break, do some body weight movements (jumping jacks, pushups, abdominal crunches, etc.) to help the blood flow back into all the body parts. This will increase the release of endorphins that will make you more awake and refreshed.
- Walk and talk. While trying to stay in contact with others on the phone, walk around the house instead of sitting. You will get in your daily steps, and it will not feel like you are exercising.
- Build an obstacle course. This is great if you have children at home. Use painters’ tape to mark out the course. Pull the cushions off the couch and build a mountain to climb over. Put a bed sheet over two chairs to crawl under. Use a broom and chairs to create a limbo station. Use your imagination and then play with the children at the same time.
- Regain your flexibility. As we age, our flexibility is the first thing to deteriorate. Find a yoga video online (Hasfit.com has some good videos). Try to get some relaxing music on your phone and focus on your breathing. This will help with the poses, but also relieve the stress of your situation.
- Join a team. There are many ways to use technology to socialize with your friends, so use it to work out with your friends. A lot of fitness centers have gone online with workouts, set up a time that you and your friends will do the fitness video. Use your phone to talk to your friends as you exercise.
- Do a little dance. Music is uplifting. Find time to play music and dance to the beat. This is a great time to learn a new dance from a video online. Have your children join you and have them show you their best moves. You and your partner can learn a new style or relearn the old dance styles.
- Fidget or stand at work. If you are able, place your computer on a counter or have a platform to raise your workstation, stand up for half the time you work. This will engage stabilizing muscles that are not active while sitting. If you cannot stand, while sitting in your chair, move your legs, raise your arms, and bend your body side-to-side or back-and-forward. The fidgeting will keep the blood moving and help you stay alert while you work.
- Lift and clean. This is a great time to clean the garage or a closet. If you find an object that is a little heavy, lift it multiple times to gain strength. Lift it up from the floor, over your head and then back down. Take the object and rotate your body side-to-side multiple times. You will get a workout in and a cleaner area at the same time.
Ringgenberg stressed that the CDC and WHO do not recommend exercising if you have a fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing.
“If you have not exercised before, start slow and easy and then build up the intensity over time,” said Ringgenberg. “If the activity causes you pain, stop and examine why it is painful. Are you using correct form or too much weight? Staying safe while you exercise is fundamental to staying active.”
“Maintaining your physical, emotional and psychological health are crucial towards your survival during these trying times,” he added. “The Department of HHP encourages you to reach out to our department for more information on our majors and the resources we have to help you maintain or improve your health.”
The mission of the Department of Health and Human Performance is to help people live a healthy and active lifestyle. Through the department’s exercise science, health promotion and physical education majors, it helps people learn the fundamentals of movement, physical and emotional health, nutrition and ways to strengthen the body.