Surely, you’ve heard of the Freshman Fifteen. Now the term ‘Quarantine Fifteen’ has been coined for the weight one may gain during the COVID-19 pandemic while staying cooped up inside without much to do except, well, eat. While gyms and group fitness classes have been closed or canceled for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason you have to add an extra 15 pounds to your post-coronavirus weigh in.
From work, appointments, gym time and everything in between, our pre-coronavirus life has been drastically modified. You may be struggling with getting into new routines because naturally, we crave routine and structure. Although we do not have assurance or control, we cannot freeze in fear and do nothing. We must find ways to adapt and continue with the things that are important to us.
Fear shifts our mindset into survival mode, which can make us hoard things like toilet paper and food, but also hold onto negative thoughts and behaviors…even weight!
In uncertain times, our brains form a fight or flight response in an effort to survive. The coronavirus is very real and there is undoubtedly danger, thus, the brain creates these same fight or flight emergent responses, but there’s no fight to fight or reason to flee. These reactions tighten our muscles, flood our bloodstreams with cortisol, and lead to more fear — causing stress and creating adrenaline that our bodies can’t release.
One of the best ways to manage stress and create structure in uncertain times is by making a commitment to move your body and get blood pumping. You can move it regardless of where you are and without any equipment! Study after study has shown the enormous benefits of movement, but there may be a few of which you are not aware.
Exercise makes you happier. Exercise improves your mood and decreases feelings of stress, anxiety and depression by releasing endorphins, known as happy hormones. Movement activates the parts of the brain that regulate anxiety and overwhelm and has shown to increase brain sensitivity to the hormones norepinephrine and serotonin which relieve feelings of stress.
Exercise supports your immune system. Exercise enhances immune function by improving your overall blood circulation. The heart gets a work out by increasing blood flow, pumping immune cells and infection-fighting cells throughout the body. According to a recent analysis published in the International Journal of Exercise Immunology Review, engaging in as little as 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise helps stimulate your immune system.
Take an online class. It’s no secret that studios and gyms offer a form of community; they foster camaraderie and friendly competition. If they remain closed, it doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. Many gyms and fitness studios are now offering online classes. Indeed, there has never been an easier time to work out. You can roll out of bed and exercise even before you brush your teeth — and no one will know the difference! You can wear your favorite ‘80s hairband shirt and a pair of old sneakers. And, the best part? There’s no pressure if you don’t know all the moves because it’s just you and the screen. There’s never been a better time to use technology to your advantage.
Participate in a fitness challenge. As a personal trainer and fitness professional, I decided to create a fitness challenge for my clients so they can stay connected, motivated, and accountable. We also encouraged them to invite family and friends. The added and sometimes overlooked benefit of a virtual workout buddy (or buddies) is it keeps everyone on track, consistently showing up and moving toward their fitness goals. I encourage you to reach out to your own circles and form or join a fitness challenge. Here is an example of what a challenge could look like:
Each day a list of activities is created. Each person in the challenge must complete all tasks to earn the daily checkmark.
- Walk for 15-30 minutes
- Complete an online workout based on your fitness level (Don’t forget to share good ones!)
- Gratitude share: Tell the group three things for which you are grateful.
You can use Facetime or Zoom to connect, or you could use a Google doc to track everyone’s progress like a scoreboard. Whatever platform you choose, make sure you give everyone virtual high fives of encouragement for their efforts in staving off the Quarantine Fifteen and choosing to fight back on the stress hormones.
Jay Nixon is the owner of Thrive Fitness Studio in Palm Desert and author of two best-selling books: The Overweight Mind – The Undeniable Truth Behind Why You’re Not Losing Weight and The Purpose of Pain – How to Turn Tragedy into Triumph Because Life’s Not Supposed to Suck!, both available on Amazon.com. Jay can be reached at www.ThriveForeverFit.com or (760) 913.7424.