While many are taking advantage of a little extra time and some nice spring weather to get out (or stay in) and exercise during this aberrant time in our lives, some have not – gyms are closed, those at parks are warned to stay away from others, some are overwhelmed by working at home while helping the kids with their studies.
But, now more than ever, when everyone is feeling stressed and anxious, we should maintain a fitness program to aid with our mental and physical health.
Mental fitness is paramount. As recommended by Scott R. Bishop of the Psychological Trauma Program at Canada’s Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, practicing mindfulness, a process that leads to a mental state of nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment experience, including one’s sensations, thoughts, bodily states, consciousness and the environment, while encouraging openness, curiosity and acceptance, is helpful.
Mental fitness can be achieved by yoga and meditation, or other mindfulness-based activities like smartphone apps that take you through various stress-reducing activities.
Physical activity is also key. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three to five days per week. If you don’t have big chunks of time, fitness segments can be broken down into 10-minute segments at various times throughout the day.
For parents with school-age children, research suggests there is an association between physical activity, cognition and academic achievement. J.W. de Greef of the Netherlands Center for Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen has written extensively on the positive effects of physical activity on attention and academic performance in pre-adolescent children, especially with continuous regular physical activity over several weeks.
It has also been proven that flexibility is an important part of physical fitness and further research indicates that athletics and exercise improve people’s moods.
A suggested daily routine might include the following flexibility exercises (note that each stretch should be held for 20-30 seconds and can be repeated 2-3 times):
Prior to stretching, if available, utilization of a foam roller/lax ball/baseball/softball on particularly tight areas would be beneficial to maximize benefit of stretch.
Position the hand of your stretch arm so that the palm is facing down with the thumb pointing inward. Pull back on the fingers of your straight arm until a mild stretch begins in the forearm muscles. This can be done both directions to stretch flexion and extension muscle groups.
Grab one arm above your elbow with your opposite hand, and pull it across your body toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your shoulder. You can do this with your thumb point up and again with thumb pointed down to stretch two different muscle groups.
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, extend your right arm over your head, and bend your right elbow, bringing your palm as far down your back as you can. Grab your right elbow with your left hand and gently push it down until you feel a stretch. Do this bilaterally.
Stand with your legs wide apart. Shift your weight to one side. Allow knee on that side to bend until it is over your foot. Keep your feet on the ground facing forward.
Kneel on ground. Place your hands on your forward knee. Relax your shoulders, keep your hips even, your chest open, and your gaze straight ahead. Shift weight forward until you feel a stretch in the hip flexor area of your back leg. Be sure to keep lower leg perpendicular to floor. If knee goes too far past the foot, slide foot forward until knee and foot are over each other.
Pec stretch/Doorway stretch
Stand between door frame. Place both arms on edge of door frame keeping upper arms level with shoulders. Step through door frame until desired stretch is felt in both pectoral muscle groups.
Stand with your feet positioned slightly wider than shoulders and toes pointed out. With your palms in front of your chest, slowly squat down flaring your knees out as you go. Lean forward and press your elbows against the inside of your thighs until desired stretch is felt. This also can be performed in the seated position with knees bent and bottom of feet touching together. Grab your ankles and place elbows on each knee. Slowly lean forward, applying pressure to knees until desired stretch is felt in groin.
Figure 4 stretch
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over your opposite knee and keep your foot flexed. Bring your opposite knee toward your chest. Reach your hand through your legs and interlace your fingers just below the crease of your knee. Using your arms, pull your opposite knee toward your chest, pausing when you feel a stretch in your glute and hip.
Start lying on the floor. Bend your knees and keep feet flat against the floor. Extend arms out into a T position. Engage your core and bring knees to one side of your body. If you do not feel stretch, pull knees down to floor with arm from same side. It is important to keep shoulders flat on the ground.
Start on all fours with your arms shoulder width apart. Stretch your arms out so that your upper body creates a downward slope. Lift your upper body and lower your pelvis to the ground.
Stand on your left leg, one knee touching the other. You can hold a chair or the wall to keep you steady if needed. Grab your right foot, using your right hand, and pull it towards your butt. Be sure to push your chest up and hips forward. If having difficulty feeling the stretch, fire your quad on leg being stretched when you have foot near your butt.
Stand facing wall. Prop 1 foot up against the wall with the balls of foot contacting the wall and heel touching the floor. Place opposite leg behind a few inches. Use back leg to push body closer to the wall and feel the stretch in throughout muscle belly of calf. Do this stretch with knee straight and slightly bent to feel the stretch in two different muscle groups.
While the above will serve as a guide, and will help immensely for those stuck indoors during this emergency, being physical in some way many times per week – no matter how it’s done - will help alleviate the stress and keep all of us mentally and physically fit. Walking, taking a flight of stairs, working in the yard or going for a bike ride will contribute and help us all get through the next few weeks. You might even try a dance party with your family!
Link to video exercises on the Endicott College Athletic
Training website https://www.ecgulls.com/information/student_athlete_services/athletic_training/stretching
. It has very basic exercises that anyone can do on their own.
Link to Endicott Strength & Conditioning and Wellness hub. https://www.ecgulls.com/general/2019-20/releases/20200405yphntp
More tailored to athletes however a great resource for some more athlete-based population.
By Jacob and Marisa Mickey
About Jacob and Marisa Mickey
A married couple, Marisa Mickey is assistant professor of exercise science in the School of Sport Science at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. Jacob Mickey is an athletic trainer in the Endicott College Department of Athletics & Recreation.
About Endicott College
Endicott College offers doctorate, master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degree programs at its campus on the scenic coast of Beverly, Mass., with additional sites in Boston, online, and at the U.S. and international locations. Endicott remains true to its founding principle of integrating professional and liberal arts education with internship opportunities across disciplines. For more, visit http://www.endicott.edu