Physical Activity and COVID-19
Physical activity includes all forms of active recreation, sports participation, cycling and walking, as well as activities you do at work and around the home and garden. It does not have to be exercise or sport – play, dance, gardening, and even house cleaning and carrying heavy shopping is all part of being physically active.
As cases of COVID-19 rapidly increase, efforts on containing and mitigating the outbreak involves but not limited to movement restriction. However, it is very important for people of all ages and abilities to be as active as possible anytime, anywhere. Even a short break from sitting, by doing 3-5 minutes of physical movement, such as walking or stretching, will help ease muscle strain, relieve mental tension and improve blood circulation and muscle activity. Regular physical activity can also help to give the day a routine and be a way of staying in contact with family and friends.
Hence, regular physical activity:
- Strengthens the heart, muscles and bones.
- Prevents heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, dementia, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and some cancers ( colon and breast cancer).
- Recommended in the treatment of stroke, diabetes, some cancers, low back pain, arthritis, neck pain and a whole lot of other health conditions.
- Boosts brain power
- Sharpens memory
- Prevents cognitive decline
- Boosts sleep quality
- Reduces the risk of depression
- Alleviates anxiety
- Boosts self-confidence
- Improves cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness
- Increases bone and muscular strength
- Helps to control weight
- Improves balance and flexibility (in older people, balance exercises help to reduce the risk of fall and injuries)
- Supports healthy growth and development in kids.
- Helps in the development of fundamental movement skills and building of social relationships in kids.
- Reduces the chances of diseases in later life among kids.
WHO has detailed recommendations on the amount of physical activity people of all ages should do to benefit their health and wellbeing. Here are the minimum levels recommended:
Infants under the age of 1 year need to
- be physically active several times a day.
Children under 5 years of age
- should spend at least 180 minutes a day in physical activities, with 3-4 year-olds being moderately or vigorously active for an hour a day.
Children and adolescents aged 5-17years
- all children and adolescents should do at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity, including activities that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 days per week.
Adults aged over 18 years
- should do a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, including muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days per week.
- older adults with poor mobility should do physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week.
It is always better to be physically active than to be sedentary. Start with small amounts and gradually increase frequency, intensity, duration and type of exercise over time.
Being active during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for us all. Because the opportunities to be physically active seem to be more restricted, it is even more important to plan in every day the ways to be active and to reduce the time spent sitting for long periods. Put simply, it is a critical time to ensure we all move more and sit less.
Talk to a licenced physiotherapist about your physical activity goals, tips and ideas on how to meet World Health Organisation’s Physical Activity Guidelines amidst COVID-19 pandemic.