AUM kinesiology professor offers tips on keeping fit during coronavirus pandemic

With gyms and health clubs closed and most of the country confined to their homes to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), keeping active and physically fit is top of mind for many people.

Staying on the move during a national pandemic, however, may seem difficult when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials have recommended that communities, universities, and businesses embrace the concept of “social distancing.” The concept is being used to break potential chains of COVID-19 transmission by preventing infected people from coming into close contact with healthy ones.

To do its part, Auburn University in Montgomery (AUM) has transitioned students to online classes to meet the CDC’s “social distancing” guidelines, which include limiting trips outside the home and observing a 6-foot buffer zone between individuals. Except for essential staff, AUM employees have been encouraged to work remotely to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Even though we need to maintain social distance, you can still go outside to take a walk, ride a bike, play with pets, do yardwork, and more,” says Angela Russell, assistant professor of kinesiology at AUM.

Russell earned both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in physical education and exercise science from AUM. She also holds a doctorate in human performance from The University of Alabama. Her research focuses on primitive reflex integration, the study of body composition, mixed martial arts, and physical activity in special populations. She routinely works with athletes and conducts health and fitness screenings for the AUM Warhawk Fit program.

So how can you stay active and physically fit during this period of “social distancing”? Dr. Russell offers the following tips to keep you moving while doing your part to flatten the COVID-19 curve:

  1. Go outside. Do outdoor exercises and chores. Outdoor play is also a great way for kids to continue learning and burn off energy while they are out of school. However, you should avoid public playground equipment and crowded locations.
  2. Watch and participate in online exercise classes and workouts. Many gyms are providing online exercise sessions you can do from home, and YouTube has videos on a wide range of different types of exercise, many of which don’t require any equipment.
  3. Try not to sit in one spot all day. Even if you are at home, get up for a few minutes each hour and move. Just standing up briefly can help get your blood flowing to your muscles and keep your joints more healthy.
  4. Stretch. Simple stretches can be done almost anywhere, even sitting in a chair. Reach as high as you can and lean from side to side. Gently reach for one toe and then the other while keeping your legs straight.
  5. Take the time for spring cleaning. While most people are already focusing more attention on cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread of germs, active housecleaning can also be good physical activity. Get your heart rate up by vacuuming or seeing how quickly you can pick up a room.
  6. Use music. Music can be a great motivator for getting active. Put together a playlist of your favorite songs to listen to while you dance, walk, or do active housework.
  7. Make it a game. Being stuck at home doesn’t have to be boring. Have laundry folding races, make a backyard Ninja Warrior course (virtual spectators only), or go on a scavenger hunt in your yard or neighborhood.
  8. Don’t forget good nutrition. In order to feel our best and maintain our health it is very important to continue to eat well. It may be difficult to get out as often for groceries, but you should still try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Look for frozen options that last longer and check the internet for creative ideas for meal preparation. Also avoid eating from boredom or stress. Planning ahead and having healthy options available can help you stay on track.
  9. De-stress with movement. One of the many benefits of exercise is its ability to help us keep our stress under control. When you need a break from work or the news, instead of reaching for junk food, get up and get moving!
  10. Stay connected. It can be hard to stay motivated during disruptions to our usual routines, especially when we need to keep our distance from other people. Talking on the phone while you take a walk or take care of chores around the house, or starting an online group with your friends to hold each other accountable for staying active can help with isolation. Now is not the time to meet up in person for group exercise, but you can still stay connected virtually.