Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
The Science of HappinessMJ O'Leary
Our college students are home early. While they finish the semester online, we juggle our own virtual work schedule with the seemingly endless needs of an active household.
Aside from the occasional masked and gloved trip to the grocery store, the bulk of our day is now spent at home. Our house doubles as an office, church, classroom, coffee shop and fitness center. That’s a lot to ask of one structure!
Replacing the gym has posed a challenge for many adjusting to the current state of isolation. The good news? It’s super easy to stay fit while isolating.
A separate room? Not needed. Fancy equipment? Not needed. There are countless strength-building, cardio-boosting and muscle-shaping exercises that require nothing more than your body and a tiny space.
Exercise can increase blood supply, lower blood pressure, and boost the immune system. Regular exercise increases metabolic efficiency by improving the delivery of oxygen to cells. Exercise also helps us sleep and can dramatically improve our mood. Who can’t use a mood boost right now?
The American Heart Association recommends adults engage each week in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or some combination of both. If you factor in heightened levels of stress and anxiety related to COVID-19, it is even more critical we make time for exercise.
Different types of exercise benefit your body in different ways so the best exercise programs are those that incorporate a variety of activities.
Begin by adding more movement to your daily activities. The goal is to move your body as much as you can, all day long.
There are countless ways to add movement to your daily activities. The most important thing is to avoid sitting all day. If you work at your desk most of the day, simply get up and stretch every half hour (or stand while participating in your umpteenth Zoom meeting). Every little bit of movement helps, and these micro movements quickly build to better health.
JUMPING JACKS help prevent loss of bone mass and improve bone strength in people who are at risk of osteoporosis. Jumping jacks are often part of warm-up exercises and cardio routines because they help increase body temperature and aerobic capacity. They quickly elevate heart rate and anything that boosts your heart is good for the heart! Calves, hips, abdominals, lower back muscles and shoulders are all engaged as you jump. I start every exercise session with 50 jumping jacks.
PLANKS are a fantastic way to strengthen core muscles and tighten your stomach. Posture is important — place your hands in line with your shoulders, and keep your palms and toes in a straight line. If you can hold a three-minute plank, you are doing great!
BURPEES work most of the major muscle groups while simultaneously boosting cardiovascular fitness, balance and coordination. No matter where you are on the fitness spectrum, few exercises are as simple yet have such a profound effect. Burpees became part of the U.S. military fitness test in 1942. Forty-one burpees in a minute was considered excellent. Thankfully, you don't have to do 41 burpees per minute to reap the benefits. Start at your fitness level, whether that’s 5 or 25, and build from there.
SQUATS are great for building the muscles in your legs and butt. Learn how to squat and more here >
WALKING is always health promoting. The fresh air does wonders for the spirit and exposure to the sun builds vitamin D, which supports a strong immune system.
REBOUNDING is incredible for your lymphatic system and drainage, which helps remove toxins from your body. Rebounding is a fantastic way to build energy and burn calories. Rebound as you watch your favorite show, or take it outside and enjoy the fresh air as you bounce. Rebound benefits
JUMPING ROPE gets your heart rate up and burns a lot of calories.
RESISTANT BANDS are elastic rubber ropes that come in different shapes, sizes and resistance levels. They can work out your whole body when you don’t have access to weights or resistance machines. Their ability to target muscles in different ways can make resistance bands a valuable part of your workout. Resistance bands are available in different colors and levels for various fitness levels.
KETTLE BELLS are a great tool for strength building and fat burning. 5-minute kettle bell workout
While I incorporate many of the above options into my weekly exercise routines, I find that I push harder and work out longer when I am part of a class. If that resonates with you:
Our immune system is our body’s defense system against toxins, infections and viruses. It’s on duty 24 hours a day, and needs our help! How we eat, sleep and exercise makes all the difference in how well our immune system functions. It is vital we do our part to help it operate at peak efficiency.
Ideally, engage in a comprehensive exercise routine that includes strength training, flexibility work, core work and regular walking. Regularly rotating different activities into your fitness routine will keep your body fit and your immune system strong.
Whatever you do, keep moving!