Staying Active During COVID: Why Engaging in Physical Activity Amid a Global Pandemic is Important and Easier Than You Think!

When news of a global pandemic and associated stay-at-home orders broke out in March of 2020, I freaked out. I was completely unprepared for the many ways that COVID-19 would change my life. For me, COVID-19 has continuously plagued my life with uncertainty and anxiety.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety and mental health throughout my adolescence, I learned the importance of coping strategies early on. Specifically, the importance of finding outlets that I could leverage to channel and overcome the challenges I face. Physical fitness became that outlet for me. It has been my greatest therapy; a safe haven that I depend upon to boost my mood and ease my anxiety.

Physical fitness offers tremendous mental health benefits. This is mainly because endorphins and other hormones, like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, are released during exercise. Additionally, physical fitness is an escapist activity that can help distract a person from their life stressors such as upcoming exams, larger homework loads, and, as of recently, the emergence of a global pandemic. 

It is probably no surprise that when I learned that COVID-19 would force gyms and fitness studios to close, my mental health was adversely affected by the disruption to my workout routine. The pandemic reduced my opportunities for physical activity, forcing me to innovate and find new ways to workout and stay sane during a period of what felt like complete chaos. 

The uncertainty of COVID-19 has brought on stress and anxiety for many people, including myself. Stay-at-home orders have increased feelings of loneliness and boredom as society has suddenly shifted towards more isolated, sedentary lifestyles. According to the CDC, during the month of June, 40% of U.S adults reported struggling with mental health and “considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, experts have stressed the importance of remaining physically active while in quarantine, citing benefits such as stress and anxiety reduction, a boost in one’s immune system, and an improvement of overall mood. After making a commitment to myself to engage in physical activity daily since the start of quarantine, I have personally realized these benefits and the tremendous impact that staying active during COVID-19 has had on my mental and physical well-being. 

While back at home in Toronto, Canada, I was very fortunate to have had access to basic workout equipment in my parents’ at-home gym. This provided me with the tools I needed to remain active and engage in effective workouts, despite not being able to go to an actual gym. 

But upon returning to BU this past fall, my anxiety peaked once more, triggered by the uncertainty surrounding how I would be able to remain active and prioritize my mental health despite my limited access to equipment. I knew this concern was a shared one among other BU students, especially since we have all transitioned to predominantly virtual classes.

However, I once again forced myself to get innovative and found ways to remain physically active and preserve my well-being despite the lack of space and equipment I now deal with as a college student. 

In sharing some of my COVID-19 workout tips with The COMmunicator’s readers, I hope to not only teach BU students the importance of remaining active during this pandemic (especially from a mental health perspective), but also that doing so is possible, regardless of where you live (on or off campus), and the space/equipment you have: 

  • Try virtual workout classes: There are a variety of workout studios in the Boston Area, such as Barry’s Bootcamp, that offer virtual classes led by their fitness instructors. Many offer student pricing and require only your bodyweight as the required equipment! 
  • Give Instagram Live a try: Many fitness-focused companies and social media influencers are offering free, fast, and effective workout classes on their Instagram lives that you can easily follow and complete at home. 
  • Savor the weather while you can: Before the winter months hit and temperatures drop, take your workouts outside! Whether it is a run on BU’s campus, along the Charles River, or an outdoor track workout, it’s helpful to clear your head and brush off your stress by getting outdoors and getting active. 
  • Book a workout time at FitRec: If you are someone who prefers weightlifting or is not the biggest fan of outdoor workouts, head over to FitRec’s website to register for (up to) 90-minute workout blocks. Social distancing guidelines are in effect and masks must be worn at all times! 
  • Check out BU CHAARG: Do you miss the camaraderie of group fitness but are apprehensive to return to classes? Look no further than BU CHAARG; a health and fitness community for females that partners with fitness studios in Boston and offers their own virtual workout programs for BU students. Want to learn more? Check out how the organization is ‘CHAARGing’ on and operating during COVID.
  • Take the stairs: It sounds so simple because it is! Even when you don’t have the time to get a full workout in, you can still move your body by taking the stairs or walking somewhere rather than resorting to the elevator or an Uber. 
  • Don’t forget to stretch!: Between your classes and during your breaks, make the effort to stand up and stretch your body. There are a variety of instructor-led stretching exercises that you can easily find on Youtube and follow. Stretching is a nice and often, much-needed break from sitting in front of a computer screen and is a great way to take a pause, and focus on yourself and your body. 

Allie Silcoff, Staff Writer  

Allie is a Junior studying Media Science in The College  of Communication at Boston University. Hailing from  Toronto, Canada, in her free time Allie proudly  cheers for Toronto sports teams (Go Raptors and  Leafs!), despite rivalries with Boston. Writing has  always been an avenue Allie has leveraged to  channel her unique voice and share it with others. She looks forward to working as a Writer for The  COMmunicator this semester!

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