“Nowadays, whenever I scroll either Instagram posts or watch Instagram stories, I could not count how many times I am impressed with the drastic changes in my friends’ appearances. The differences are so significant by having their muscles built, glowing up, and looking healthier even during quarantine, and it inspires me to do so.”
Looking back to reality, we still have a long way to go in the coronavirus battle and it has always been challenging and emotional. One of the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic was the massive abrupt changes to day-to-day schedules. People began to normalise things they used to do and adjust to the current condition such as by working from home and doing most of the activities virtually. Gyms, recreation centres, and parks were closed, curbing exercise routines. Stress levels and mental health issues skyrocketed for many, with eating and drinking becoming major outlets and means of reward (1). Indeed, many studies showed a link between high stress levels and overeating (2,3). But if we try to view the same scene from different perspectives, others have used the change in routine as an opportunity to exercise more and have a better lifestyle, such as what I saw on my friends’ Instagram posts and stories. People approach a new set of circumstances and cope with the changes in this pandemic situation differently.
When the environment and our routine changes, we can use it as an opportunity to treat ourselves well in those really tough times such as living healthier, being more productive, as well as losing weight and getting in shape during quarantine with routine exercise pattern. Regular exercise is essential for everyone under normal circumstances. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, routine exercise pattern is especially crucial since:
- exercise boosts the immune system (moderate-intensity exercise has been proven to have immune-boosting benefits that help our body fight off infections such as COVID-19);
- exercise may prevent weight gain and enhance weight loss (exercise can help burn extra calories produced by dietary changes and offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle as well);
- exercise is good for mental health (exercise is a proven mood-booster, reduces stress and anxiety that helps adults build emotional resilience);
- exercise improves sleep (evidences suggest that regular exercise pattern helps people improves their sleep quality as well as to boost immune system); and
- exercise is also beneficial for older adults or people with comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc. Overall, exercise can boost energy, improve balance, strength, mobility, flexibility, cardiovascular health, and well-being (4,5).
As clinical clerkship medical students who also get reflected with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical education, I also experience what it feels like to work from home and to get used to doing normal things differently – virtually. Sometimes it has been exhausting, and I prefer a clinical-practice oriented session rather than just working at a laptop all day long. It also raises the question whether this online education is worth the frustration? One day, suddenly when I felt so overwhelmed due to this condition, I began to seek new sensations, then I decided to manage myself with good habits such as getting into an exercise routine because I believe, it is worth the benefits. Before starting a new exercise habit, I did some research to get the most out of my workout.
In order to create a routine exercise pattern that will be more effective in reaching our goals and fitness level, understanding F.I.T.T (frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise) elements is important (1). The first thing to set up with your workout plan is frequency—how often you will exercise depends on a variety of factors including the type of workout (cardio workouts or muscle strengthening), how hard you are working, your fitness level, and your exercise goals. American College of Sports Medicine exercise guidelines recommends moderate exercise for five or more days a week or intense cardio for three days a week while strength training is recommended to do in two to three non-consecutive days a week (2). The second step is to identify the intensity, as to how hard we should work during exercise depends on our type of workout. For a cardio workout, the general recommendation is to work at a moderate intensity. For steady-state workouts and interval training, the recommendation is to work at a high intensity for a shorter period. Meanwhile, for strength training, our intensity depends on the type of exercise, the amount of weight we lift, and the number of reps and sets we do (3). The next element is how long you exercise during each session (time). The exercise guidelines suggest 30 to 60 minutes of cardio, but the duration of our workout depends on what we are doing. For strength training, the duration also depends on the type of workout we are doing and our schedule. For example, a total body workout could take up to an hour, whereas a split routine could take less time because it requires smaller groups of muscles (4). The last part of F.I.T.T, type (cardio workout or strength training) is an easy one to manipulate to avoid overuse injuries or weight loss plateaus (6). After understanding and creating the F.I.T.T formula, then we just do the actions by working out either indoor at home or outdoor. Both indoor and outdoor exercises have their own benefits and risks, but we can manage them. YouTube channels, Instagram, and other social media also give us killer workout for free as well as inspiration for indoor workout variations. On the other side, British Medical Journals (BMJ) also recognise that the majority of the population does not have the autonomy to exercise consciously and safely at home. Therefore, the reopening of practice places must be accompanied by appropriate guidelines such as hygiene (handwashing/hand sanitising regularly), safety (mask use and daily health checks for symptoms, avoid the use of a mobile phone in shared environments), and physical distancing (7). In addition, it is also highly recommended to kick off our routine exercise pattern by building a network of our loved ones as a support system throughout this process especially when the going gets tough.
Setting goals, maintaining a goals-based workout or exercise schedule with a healthy lifestyle, enjoying the process with commitment, consistency, and reward are the keys for our new routine exercise pattern successful journey. As quoted from Israelmore Ayivor, “Sow the seeds of hard work and you will reap the fruits of success”, the result never betrays its process. Along with my new exercise pattern and lifestyle, I feel much better, so much happier, and more motivated during my current condition. Routine exercise pattern during quarantine is beyond only a seasonal hobby; exercise is a necessity, a lifestyle, with “body goals” as a bonus from losing weight! So, we could still always be a better and healthier version of ourselves every day even during quarantine with routine exercise pattern and fitness plan. Good luck!
“Nothing can ever take our ‘body goal’ and healthy lifestyle dreams, even the quarantine.”
Annisa Dewi Nugrahani
Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Padjadjaran
- Wiss DA, Avena N, Gold M. Food Addiction and Psychosocial Adversity : Health Implications. Nutrients. 2020;12(3521):1–26.
- Razzoli M, Pearson C, Crow S, Bartolomucci A. Stress, overeating, and obesity: Insights from human studies and preclinical models. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2017;1–9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.01.026
- Rosenbaum DL, White KS. The relation of anxiety , depression , and stress to binge eating behavior. J Health Psychol. 2015;20(6):887–98.
- Dwyer MJ, Pasini M, Dominicis S De, Righi E. Physical activity : Benefits and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2020;30(7):1291–4.
- Füzéki E, Groneberg DA, Banzer W. Physical activity during COVID-19 induced lockdown : recommendations. J Occup Med Toxicol. 2020;15(25):1–5.
- American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM Exercise Guideline for 2020. Philadelphia :Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2020.
- Dominski FH, Dominski BH, Brandt R. Am I better exercising indoors or outdoors during the pandemic? #Infographic. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2020.