Collectively, we conquered mountains last year. Both our mental and physical health took a hit – as our inner and outer worlds were flipped on their heads.
Yet despite lockdowns, furloughs, social distancing, airline closures and isolation, the 2020 pandemic gave many the freedom to discover.
To discover nature, movement and authentic living.
Last year, parts of our life we took for granted were snatched away. Office talk became texts. Fitness went online. Shopping became survival.
But humans are highly skilled at adapting to change. Nothing changes if nothing changes, after all. To get to 2021, we had to keep moving forward, prioritising health, nature, fitness, adventure, purpose and each other more than ever before.
All this was a massive change to the way many have looked at their daily routine and sheds a new light on the importance of exercising.
What 2020 taught us about the importance of exercising
Mental benefits of exercise during the pandemic
Anxiety, isolation, boredom, depression, stress, worry – the global pandemic had a significant negative effect on wellbeing for many people.
Even two weeks of sedentary time is “enough to cause a dip in the mood” for regular exercisers. Jennifer Heisz’s work, a McMaster University kinesiologist who studies exercise and the brain, shows so.
Finding new ways to keep active can help take charge of your mood, stay focused, and regain a sense of control during the chaos. That’s also why you missed your gym so much. Not only the space, but the way the habit of going has such a positive influence on your mood.
Whether you take up wild swimming or build more movement into your work from home routine, increasing your physical activity is a powerful medicine for alleviating many mental health challenges.
Exercise influences changes in your brain, including patterns that promote feelings of calm, less inflammation and the release of feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
The fitness habits you build throughout 2020 will help your mind and body stay happy and healthy far beyond the global pandemic. All this combined will make you come back stronger to your workout at your local gym.
Physical benefits of exercise during the pandemic
It’s true – regular physical activity can bolster your defence against coronavirus. Research shows that exercise alters behaviour in almost all immune cell populations in the bloodstream.
So, whether you’re working out at your favourite EVO club, heading out for a brisk jog or doing other moderate intensity aerobic exercise regularly (around 150 minutes per week) can help produce more white blood cells and maintain a normal immune function.
But exercise does more than help your immune system do its job.
WHO states that exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can also help reduce high blood pressure and risk of heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and a range of cancers. These are all conditions that can increase susceptibility to a respiratory disease such as COVID-19.
Exercise also helps to flush bacteria from the respiratory system. That happens due to the brief rise in body temperature that occurs during and after exercise. For airborne conditions such as COVID-19, the faster-paced breathing during exercise can help protect against pathogens from infecting your lungs and airways.
How much exercise helps health and wellbeing?
As mentioned above, at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity can increase your fitness, health and wellness, helping to protect your body against coronavirus.
Playful, purposeful movement can help bolster your immune function and your mental resilience. Think cycling, walking, jogging, climbing, light resistance training, climbing, swimming and sports.
Nothing beats the mental and physical clarity of sweaty and happy bodies after a workout session. As we say at EVO, it’s not just about what or how you train, but why. And maybe the importance of exercising lies precisely there.