How, and why, you should stay active during this pandemic

June 1, 2020

If you’re like me, you might be a little disappointed in how heavy you found yourself breathing after walking through Boston Common from Park Street toward the State House. Despite the amount of walking I did in Boston, and the relatively consistent amount of exercise, that hill got me every time.

Now the world is different, and trekking up Beacon Hill and going to gyms is no longer the norm. In the world of coronavirus, it may seem harder to exercise now more than ever, but it’s still a necessary part of life. 

So what can you do when gyms are closed? 

Suffolk athletes and students alike have come up with unique ways of keeping active. The Suffolk Athletics Instagram account has been promoting “Wellness Wednesdays,” during which the department posts short workout videos throughout the day that feature Suffolk athletes from various sports. 

For example, the athletes will be seen doing push ups at 10 a.m., squats at 11 a.m. and burpees at noon. 

Even those who have been hit hard by this pandemic have found ways to keep exercise in their life. Suffolk Class of 2020 member and recent graduate Dan Redznak was a personal trainer at Boston Sports Clubs until he lost his job in March due to Gov. Charlie Baker temporarily closing non-essential businesses like gyms. 

The coronavirus has taken so much from all of us, whether it be a job, family member or friend, or just the ability to do what we love, such as hanging out with friends in a restaurant. For me, the virus checks all those boxes,” said Redznak. 

But rather than let his circumstances get the better of him, Redznak persists. 

“It would be easy to feel bad for myself, and sit around, defeated,” Redznak said. “But if I do that, the virus wins. What I’ve noticed is that, yes, this illness has taken so much, but it can never take something I am passionate about. Something I live for. And that passion is fitness.” 

“By staying active, working out, and doing what I love, it makes me feel like we can crush this virus eventually,” he said. 

When there is so much bad happening in the world, and it all seems hopeless, it may be difficult to find motivation to get out of bed. But sometimes forcing yourself to be active may actually help you feel better, if only for a moment.

“High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the ‘runner’s high’ that joggers report,” Dr. Michael Craig Miller of Harvard Medical School said in the Harvard Health Letter. 

That doesn’t mean you have to go out and run 5 miles, however. 

“The real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time,” Miller said. “That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections.”

“The improvement in brain function makes you feel better… Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression,” he said.

There is no shame in feeling down or hopeless during this time. Many factors that can cause depression are products of the unfortunate time we live. 

“Depression manifests physically by causing disturbed sleep, reduced energy, appetite changes, body aches, and increased pain perception, all of which can result in less motivation to exercise,” Miller said. 

If you are anything like me, quarantine has destroyed your sleep schedule, made you eat worse, all with a side of aches and constant fatigue. 

But working out can still help you feel better, even when you don’t feel up to it. 

“Just moving around for an hour a day can improve your mood significantly, make you feel more alert, and even cause weight loss with a proper diet,” Redznak said. 

Exercise can also help with your mental health. 

“You kind of go into your own little world, own space, that you and only you control,” Redznak said. “It’s a good break from reality that we all need right now.”

While you might see college and professional athletes alike taking part in rigorous training at home during this time, short and quick workouts are a great way to keep your body from deterring during this time where we might be less active. 

Do 10 push ups after a game of Call of Duty, after an episode of the Outer Banks, or whenever you want to. And as summer arrives, maybe take a stroll outside and enjoy the weather as best you can. Even the smallest amounts of activity can have a major role in overcoming the troubles of the times. 

You might find yourself wanting to keep moving, even if you felt like you never  were going to get out of bed. 

“Working out, in a way, gives me hope, and that’s something I think we all need right now,” Redznak said.  “So I guess my motivation to work out is fueled by my hope for the future: that things will be better eventually.”

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