Think back to a year ago. It probably isn’t difficult to remember what you were experiencing – “flatten the curve” and “socially distant” were phrases you heard daily. You were probably low on toilet paper. Your job most likely sent you to work from home for “at most two weeks.” Events were cancelled, kids were sent home from school, and restaurants closed their doors.
It’s been approximately one year since the COVID-19 pandemic became real for many of us – affecting our everyday life from how we go to work, how we socialize with our friends, and even how we work out. Gyms closed and group exercise classes were cancelled. Demand for home gym equipment skyrocketed and, consequently, so did its price. Not only were everyone’s exercise routines interrupted, but so were daily routines like commuting and running errands.
There has been a significant decrease in physical activity since COVID became a household name. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in June 2020, Tison and his colleagues compared daily step data before and after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus to be a global pandemic. As one might expect, step counts decreased across the world. The WHO made this declaration on March 11, 2020 and within 10 days, there was a 5.5% decrease in mean steps and within 30, that jumped to a 27.3% decrease in mean steps worldwide. They believe this to be due to both changes in exercising and changes to daily life (e.g. commuting to work, socializing, running errands, etc.).
Additionally, remote work has been associated with increased sedentary behavior and it’s no surprise that the percentage of Americans working from home has drastically increased since March 2020. In a study published in November 2020, McDowell and his colleagues founds that major work-related changes caused by the pandemic increased sedentary behavior. Further, according to Mayo Clinic, prolonged sitting has negative health effects and is associated with various conditions such as high blood sugar, obesity, and increased blood pressure.
Though unfortunate and possibly unsurprising, this information is important to know nonetheless. Let it motivate you to get yourself and your participants to kick up your workout routines. The CDC stresses that “regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.” It positively impacts various aspects of health and its benefits include reducing disease, improving mental health, strengthening muscles and bones, and preventing falls. On top of this, several studies have found that physical activity may also be associated with less severe COVID-19 symptoms (Bonis, 2020).
The pandemic simultaneously introduced new barriers to exercise as well as reinforced just how important it is to be physically active. It is crucial to prioritize your participants’ physical activity and encourage them to get up and moving. See below for some ideas on how to do this:
- Run A Challenge: Start a Movement Challenge! Consider making it a team challenge to improve the sense of community in these virtual times and leverage the Locker Room to promote friendly competition. Participants will have the option of logging steps and/or minutes of exercise, so it’s perfect no matter how your participants choose to be active!
- Encourage Time Outdoors: As spring approaches, reach out to your population and promote local hikes, walking paths, and other outdoor activities they can partake in safely. Providing relevant information and suggestions helps get rid of any guesswork they may have when making plans to be active outside.
- Add Movement To Your Meetings: Encourage any meetings that do not require notetaking or screensharing to be over the phone so attendees can take the call on a walk. When this isn’t possible, dedicate the first few minutes of a meeting for some easy but effective exercises and stretches to get everyone out of their chairs.
- Lead By Example: It’s been found that people are likely to adapt their fitness behaviors to those around them (Plante, 2010). Consider creating a participant account on the Motivation Alliance platform for a “Wellness Champion” and use this account to post in the Chronicles area about how you’re personally staying active and encourage your allies to do the same! For example, you can post a picture from your weekend bike ride, write a journal post about how you and your manager took your connect call outside on a “walk together,” or write about a “safe” virtual class you did at home. Not sure where to start? Why not try the best – Les Mills On Demand was rated #1 on USA Today’s annual “10 Best” Readers Choice awards for Best At-Home Workout in 2020. Classes vary in time, intensity, and type so participants can pick a class that’s perfect for them!
It is critical now more than ever to get your population (and yourself!) exercising during these – you guessed it! – unprecedented times. As we always say, Wellness Is Better Together.
Bonis, M. (2020). Physical Activity May be a Major Deterrent of Severe Health Consequences from COVID-19: An Annotated Summary of Physical Activity and COVID-19 Research. Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research, 29, 22063-22069. doi:10.26717/BJSTR.2020.29.004733
CDC. (2021, January 22). Benefits of Physical Activity. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
Laskowski, E. R. (2020, August 21). Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting? Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005
McDowell, C. P., Matthew, H. P., Jeni, L., Jacob, M. D., & Cassandra, B. (2020). Working From Home and Job Loss Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic Are Associated With Greater Time in Sedentary Behaviors. Front Public Health, 8. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2020.597619
Plante, T. G. (2010). Effects of Perceived Fitness Level of Exercise Partner on Intensity of Exertion [Abstract]. Journal of Social Sciences, 6, 50-54.
Tison, G. H., Avram, R., Kuhar, P., Abreau, S., Marcus, G. M., Pletcher, M. J., & Olgin, J. E. (2020). Worldwide effect of covid-19 on physical activity: A descriptive study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 173(9), 767-770. doi:10.7326/m20-2665 USA TODAY 10Best. (2020, December 04). Best At-Home Workout (2020). Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-at-