This guest blog is by Dr. Justin Canada, an exercise physiologist and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation expert at Virginia Commonwealth University Health in Richmond.
When it comes to our health and well-being, physical activity is a key element — even during the COVID-19 pandemic when many of us aren’t moving as much as we normally would.
The more active we are, the more we improve or maintain our cardiorespiratory fitness, a measurement of how well our body uses oxygen when we’re in motion. The better our cardiorespiratory fitness, the stronger we are to prevent and tackle diseases. That’s why the American Heart Association considers it a key clinical vital sign, providing doctors a snapshot of physiological health.
As you settle into your “new normal,” take a step back and think about how to add a little more physical activity into your life.
Start with these three simple tips to get your heart rate up and your body moving:
Park farther away than you normally would.
Being physically active doesn’t mean you have to do an intense exercise regimen. It’s as simple as parking your car a block or two away from where you would normally. Before you know it, you’re getting in extra physical activity that adds up.
The key is being purposeful and intentional with your movements. Just think about how you can fit an extra few minutes of walking into your day (including taking the stairs instead of the elevator). It’s a simple way to get in the habit of moving more.
Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity times per week – preferably spread out over several days.
If you can exercise at a moderate intensity, you should. Moderate-intensity activities are those within a comfortable range for you. An example is taking a brisk walk during which you breathe a little heavier, your heart beats a bit faster and you may even sweat — but you’re not short of breath.
Engaging in this type of activity regularly can decrease the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes and increase your ability to control high blood pressure. If you can’t do a full 30 minutes of exercise, accumulating this amount throughout the day is still beneficial.
Stay active during the pandemic.
Regular exercise improves immune system function and reduces anxiety and stress, which many are experiencing during the pandemic. Even people at risk of COVID-19-related complications can benefit from exercise while staying safe. Do physical activities such as walking outdoors, exercising indoors with videos, gardening, caring for your lawn — anything to get you moving.
Just remember, some physical activity is better than none. The more you do, the more you’ll reap positive impacts on your psychological and physiological health. So get out and move a little more.
Justin Canada, Ph.D., RCEP, is a clinical exercise physiologist and assistant professor in the Division of Cardiology at Virginia Commonwealth University Health in Richmond.
A researcher and clinician, Canada develops and optimizes advanced clinical exercise testing services to help diagnose and assess treatments for cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary diseases.
He received his master’s degree in health and movement sciences and a doctorate in rehabilitation and movement sciences, both with a concentration in exercise physiology, from VCU. His research examines the use of exercise testing to identify heart abnormalities in cancer survivors who have previously undergone cancer treatment.