Feeling Isolated and Alone?
Here’s How Exercise Can Boost your Mental Health


By Markese Hayden, Fitness & Wellness Director, Edward A. Myerberg Center 

The year of 2020 has brought many challenges that have adversely affected the health of numerous Americans. Yes, there is the apparent physical health challenges COVID-19 has presented for us, but the underlying component that has possibly suffered the most is our mental health.   

The onset of COVID-19 has forced us into a time of self-isolation, fear, and an overall feeling of the unknown. As fitness and wellness director of the Edward A. Myerberg Center, I work with the active aging population daily.  

I often ask them, ‘What is the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic?’ The responses I receive often are missing loved ones, loneliness and feeling tired. Hearing their responses breaks my heart because I wish there were more that I could do to help their mental health.   

Fortunately, there is a proven method that can help combat the negative physical and mental effects of COVID-19. That effective method is simply called exercise.  

According to a study, “exercise has been shown to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been proven to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.”  

 

From Walking to Strength Training: Exercise Ideas for your Mental Health 

You may be wondering how you can safely get started with exercise. The simple answer is to engage in a walking program. Now that it’s autumn, it’s the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and walk 20 to 30 minutes per day. Not only is it good for your heart to walk, but sunlight is also a great way to get some Vitamin-D.    

If you are not able to complete a full 20 to 30 minutes, walking in five-minute bouts throughout your day is another great option. Walking is great for improving your heart health, bone and joint health, and your mood, with the release of tension fighting hormones, like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.  

In addition, yoga and Tai-Chi are proven methods to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

 

Strength Training Workout for Home 

If you currently walk and want to try something different, here is a quick strength training workout for you:  

Sit-to-Stand: Complete 2 sets of 10 reps. Take a 30 second break in between sets. 
Wall Push-Ups / Pushups / Standing Press Ups – WorkoutLabs Exercise Guide
Wall-Push-up: 2 sets of 10 reps. Take a 30 second break in between sets. 
Exercise to Stay Healthy - National Osteoporosis Foundation
Standing Toe Raise: 2 sets of 10 reps. Take a 30 second break in between sets. 
standing abduction
Standing Hip Abductions: Two sets of 10 reps on each leg. Take a 30 second break between sets.  

 

Working Out with Others   

Working out with a spouse or friend not only provides socialization, but accountability.  An exercise buddy will increase your likelihood of sticking with a fitness program.   

If you prefer to workout with others, do so safely by wearing a mask and maintaining six feet of distance. If you prefer to remain at home, but still want the group exercise experience, try online programs, like The Myerberg’s Virtual Senior Center.   

With the help of our technology concierge, you can be connected to over 50 weekly programs in no time! Need another approach? Simply pick up the phone and talk to someone while you are exercising. 

The pandemic challenges us daily, but we cannot let our current circumstance affect our long-term health.  

I encourage you all to find some time throughout your day to incorporate some type of physical activity. Remember – you may feel disconnected from time to time, but we are connected in so many ways. Take time for an exercise break and you will experience the wonderful lasting effects. 

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