The mind and body connection is real; what affects one also affects the other. The pandemic harms both the mind and body. It causes stress in the population, across demographics. Stress, in turn, impairs the proper functioning of the immune system. This makes people even more vulnerable to infection, especially from the Covid-19 virus.
Stress manifests itself through excessive worrying, fear, and anxiety. You can experience deep sadness or depression. You can feel extreme frustration or anger. Sometimes it makes you feel numb. Sometimes it gives you body pains, headaches, stomach problems, and skin irritations. You can feel tired and sluggish, with no interest in doing anything. You will either eat too much or lose your appetite. You can have sleep problems.
If you start to notice any of these symptoms in yourself, you must take immediate action. If you do not, it can lead to serious mental and physical health problems.
Exercise reduces stress by lowering the levels of cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones. At the same time, exercise increases the body’s production of endorphins that elevate mood and act as natural painkillers. This is why exercise makes people feel good.
Besides lowering stress, exercise further strengthens the immune system. It has an immediate effect on the body by helping detect and combat pathogens that cause disease. It also has a long-term effect on slowing down the immune system’s rate of deterioration. This boosts your body’s ability to fight infections even as you age.
You need a combination of aerobic and strength training exercises. For adults, the American Heart Association advises that you distribute 150 minutes of exercise with moderate intensity throughout the week. Supplement this with at least two days of weight training or resistance training every week.
Do not embark on a fitness routine if you are experiencing chronic neck, shoulder, or back pain, though. You must first consult a chiropractor. You can do so even during a pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security advises that chiropractors provide essential care. They can diagnose your condition and address it. They will also provide you with appropriate exercises.
During aerobic exercise, your breathing controls the amount of oxygen that reaches your muscles to help them in burning fuel and moving. This improves cardiovascular conditioning and lung function.
If you do not have a special health issue, you can do half an hour of aerobic exercise daily, five days a week. If you can do it seven days a week, this would be better.
You can distribute your exercise throughout the day in ten-minute sessions. Add more time to include a gradual warm-up and cool-down. Do your stretching exercises after the aerobic session.
High-impact aerobic exercises include running, jumping rope, and step aerobics. If your physical condition does not allow you to do these, you can still do low-impact aerobics. These include walking, swimming, cycling, and using an elliptical machine.
If pandemic guidelines in your area allow outdoor exercise, take advantage of breathing in the fresh air. You must keep away from other people, though.
This involves weight-bearing or resistance exercises that strengthen the muscles and connective tissues and increase muscle mass. This improves the body’s ability to perform activities and helps protect it from injury. It also increases the body’s metabolism, burning more calories even at rest.
Strength training must involve all major muscle groups. Work each muscle group to the point of fatigue in each session. Experts state that eight to 12 repetitions of an exercise are usually sufficient for each group.
Some examples of strength training exercises are weightlifting, the use of resistance bands, and body-weight exercises such as planks, push-ups, squats, and chair dips. Some say that the last four exercises are enough to have a complete strength training workout.
Even if exercise eases stress, you still need other ways to address mental tension. You are, after all, bombarded with challenges from the pandemic every day.
Meditation, yoga and tai chi help achieve a calm mind. You can find resources online to learn these.
If you want something simpler, deep breathing and muscle relaxation will help. Lie down in a quiet place. Concentrate on taking deep, even breaths. Focus on one body part at a time, from your facial muscles to your feet. Tighten the muscles in each body part for 20 seconds and slowly release. Feel the contrast between the tension and the sensation of relaxation as you release. This will loosen up your whole body.
Body and Mind Wellness
In a pandemic, it is vital to fortify all our defenses.
You cannot completely eradicate stress, but you can manage it. When you address stress through exercise, you also ensure your physical fitness. This creates a positive spiral because being fit makes you feel good about yourself.
We must ensure that our psychological and physical states are fit and are working together for our protection. There can be no weak link in our health shield.