Evolving public health guidance will result in changing recommendations on safe physical activity from the team at Exercise is Medicine. We are committed to providing the most up-to-date guidance possible to maintain healthy physical activity.
The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents some challenges to maintaining a physically active lifestyle. COVID-19 is spread by droplet transmission – someone sneezing or coughing into the air or onto a surface, and then the virus enters a new host through the mouth, nose or eyes. The most up-to-date information about COVID-19 should be accessed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
The US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, recently added a webpage entitled “Staying Active While Social Distancing” providing support for physical activity and guidance on how to exercise safely (including masking outdoors).
Given what we understand about transmission of the virus, the CDC recommends avoiding gatherings of 10 people or more and maintaining a social distance of 6 feet or more. (Updated recommendations from the White House are to limit gatherings to 10 people or less.) That, along with recommendations related to personal hygiene (hand washing, not touching your face) may create concern about exercising in gyms, where hundreds of people are in and out on a daily basis. Those at greatest risk for severe complications of COVID-19 are the elderly (defined as age 65 and older), and others with chronic diseases or compromised immune function. Those individuals should avoid gyms altogether, and exercise at home or in their neighborhood. In many areas of the country and around the world, community members of all ages, have been asked to shelter-in-place, thereby avoiding gyms altogether.
For all of us, young and old, regular physical activity remains an important strategy for staying healthy! Compared to being sedentary, moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with better immune function. Likewise, regular physical activity is associated with lower levels of anxiety and perceived stress (which many of us are feeling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic).
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and 2 sessions per week of muscle strength training. Fit in 2, 5, 10 or 20 minutes, however and wherever you can. Every active minute counts!
A companion Rx for Health Series handout, Staying Active During the Coronavirus Pandemic, was also created and translated into several different languages to share with patients, clients and the public.
Below are some strategies to maintain physical activity and fitness:
Outdoor Activities (if your local government allows)
Muscle Strength Training
Don’t sit all day! For example:
Here are current answers to frequently asked questions about physical activity and exercise with respect to COVID-19:
Thanks also to Jeffrey Woods, Ph.D., FACSM, and Brandt Pence, Ph.D., ACSM member experts in exercise physiology and exercise immunology who graciously reviewed this blog.