Fitness in a Global Pandemic
By Alain Deen
Volume 1 Issue 6
March 18, 2021
Image provided by ProRedhadb PC
Exercise. Mankind’s social construct to maintain both physical health and even mental wellness. Although you might not exercise daily, it is certain that you have before. With that said, after the pandemic first hit, many of our fitness tracks came to a halt. Whether we found pleasure in it or not, it’s safe to say that many left fitness behind at one point. Along with this, the importance of fitness during a time of COVID-19 shines through our extra belly fat and random spikes of unwanted laziness. However, it should be noted that there are various ways to keep fit during these strange times. Whether through a one-minute “Flipgrid” video or a daily routine, it definitely could be done.
The Benefits of Exercise during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Although we may not want to exercise, it sure is necessary, especially while we’re at home binge-watching our favorite cheesy Netflix originals that happen to be very captivating. Anyway, studies show that levels of anxiety have greatly increased in the past year. Surprisingly enough, a few minutes of exercise a day can aid in preventing an anxious mindset. According to Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s department of health and wellness, strength training has indicated a reduction in symptoms of anxiety for individuals without any type of anxiety disorder. This research highlights the importance of exercise for not only our physical health, but mental health as well. Michigan Medicine’s research further highlights the psychological benefits of exercise. For instance, it promotes positive feelings; “For children and adolescents, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and exercise during the day are associated with elevations in self-esteem, improved concentration, reductions in depressive symptoms, and improvements in sleep”. With all of that said, there are a plethora of easy-to-perform exercises you can do at home…some you might even recognize from your gym class.
How has fitness changed?
As I mentioned before, fitness during these times has seen rapid and immense change. This is greatly evident in your very own gym class. I had the privilege of interviewing North High School’s PE instructor, Ms. Abbate, about the benefits of fitness, physical education during the pandemic, and her very own exercise routines.
What are some of the exercises you've assigned to you students?
“We assigned our students more fitness concepts rather than actual exercises. As a department we felt it helped students to understand WHY certain exercises are done and how they benefit the body rather than just giving them a list of workouts to do. Plus, not being able to supervise them while doing exercises at home is a safety concern. Physical fitness is something that will always be part of your life and understanding how you have to modify based on your current fitness level is important to everyone.”
How has your teaching style changed for both Health class and physical education?
“UGH. How hasn’t it changed? PE was super limited in the beginning and we were not permitted to use any equipment at first, which is kind of critical in PE. I think just having the break from sitting in front of a screen for students who came in person gave PE that glimmer of light that other classes couldn’t offer. But it’s not the same at all; whether you all realize it or not, PE is more than just getting activity in. You’re meshed with students of other grades, some probably not your tight group of friends, working together and breaking social boundaries that aren’t always offered in other class settings. As Ms. Zovich often says, you learn the history of some of the activities we do that ‘might come in handy if you’re ever on Jeopardy! one day!’ and the light-heartedness of PE now is just overshadowed by restrictions.
As far as health, a lot of what we do is based on what is called “skills based learning”, meaning we teach through activity. For example, a lesson I love in the Drug and Alcohol Unit involves making everyone jog in place in the classroom and see how they feel. Then they try again but this time I give them a straw (usually I’m able to snag a bunch from Starbucks in the morning) and have them jog in place only breathing through the straw. The point being that it is more challenging, representing how it would feel to have lungs that were damaged from smoking cigarettes/e-cigarettes. While I could probably do that with my in person students, what about those who are fully remote? That was a big challenge I found with revamping my lessons, I would get it to work but then remembered there would be students that I would never have in the classroom. Which brings me to another point, there are students I’ve genuinely never met; this is only my second year at North so most of my students are new to me regardless. Having only met them through a screen is wild to me. So much of health class deals with that quality in person face-to-face experience that this year is lacking. It is quite a challenge to facilitate that same quality connection to fully remote students. It breaks my heart to see you all going through your days like this. To end on a positive note, I’ve improved with my technology use, which is cool. “
What are some exercises YOU do at home to stay fit?
“I love to run the boardwalk in Long Beach where I live. If I put on a good playlist or podcast I really get to escape and just go, the views are great too! [I use a] Peloton login, so I have that app with tons of different workouts, not just cycling. I recently started seeing a personal trainer too who is great; it’s 1 on 1 which makes me feel really good with COVID safety protocols and it’s a workout catered just to me”.
Do the exercises you assign have both psychological and physical benefits?
“Again, like I said we didn’t assign specific exercises we assigned fitness related concepts, but generally speaking if students were to apply those concepts the benefits both physically and mentally are huge. When you exercise, like even something super simple as taking a 20-30 minute walk, is enough to get your heart working enough to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and decrease body fat. As far as mentally, exercise increases your memory (more blood flow to the brain), helps you sleep more restfully, and over time can make your mood elevated and lower stress levels. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to get quality exercise in and reap these benefits, start small and consistency is key!”
Although it may be hard to find the motivation to exercise, it is definitely worth the try. From psychological benefits to physical outcomes, performing a 20-30 workout everyday proves to have its perks. Whether it’s learning why fitness holds such great importance, or simply the desire to stay fit, exercise and fitness will always be of great importance in our daily lives.