How—and Why—to Stay Fit When All the Gyms Are Closed

woman doing crunches

For many of NC State’s faculty and staff, swinging by the gym before work in the morning or on the way home in the evening is a normal part of their day — or at least it was, until the coronavirus pandemic upended everyone’s routines. 

Now that all gyms and fitness
centers are closed, some are wondering how to keep exercising during a
quarantine lockdown. For those who weren’t exercising to begin with, not much
has changed in that regard; but nearly everyone is feeling greater stress and anxiety
these days.

And that’s exactly why now is
the perfect time to start exercising at home, according to Will Craig,
assistant director of fitness for Wellness
and Recreation
at NC State.

“Physical activity is one way
for people to manage the stress they feel in everyday life,” says Craig. “So
right now, when you’re stuck at home — or maybe working on campus as a
mandatory employee — and feeling even more stress than usual, you can use
physical activity to help you deal with what life is presenting you.”

Will Craig, assistant director of fitness for Wellness and Recreation at NC State.

Craig, who is a certified
personal trainer and group fitness instructor, provides direction and vision
for all fitness programs, services and facilities in Wellness and Recreation.
He also leads his unit’s efforts to collaborate with campus partners to
incorporate physical activity opportunities throughout the university.

Craig says his team’s ultimate
goal is to enhance everyone’s overall wellness, not just their physical fitness.

“With all the research we have
today, we know that physical activity is just one component of holistic
wellness,” he says.

To that end, Wellness and
Recreation has launched a campaign called Move30, which encourages
people to move at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to achieve 150 minutes
of physical activity per week as recommended by the American College of Sports
Medicine.

“Research shows that people who achieve
that level of activity have a tendency to have better moods, a higher level of
energy and improved concentration,” he explains. “They also tend to have less stress,
anxiety and depression.”

The benefits don’t stop there.
“People who get that 150 minutes in every week also tend to sleep about an hour
more per night,” he says. “It’s better-quality sleep, too. Physical activity
has a drastic positive impact across many areas of your life. So under
lockdown, when you have more going on around you if you’re working at home — and
more going on in your head no matter where you are — if you exercise, you might
be able to focus better, work more effectively and complete your tasks more
easily.”

Craig offers these tips for
exercising safely and effectively at home:

1. Start slow.

If you’re starting an exercise
program from scratch, the same cardinal rule applies whether you’re doing it at
home or at a gym: Start off slowly.

“It might even just be moving
for five minutes at a time to add up to 30 minutes,” Craig says. “Research
shows that if you split your 30 minutes up into five-minute chunks, you get the
same benefits as people who move for 30 minutes all at once. So start there if
you need to. Then you can slowly build up to moving for longer periods of
time.”

2. Find a movement you enjoy.

“One of the most common things I
hear is that people don’t like working out, they don’t like exercise,” Craig
says. “But ‘exercise’ is actually not the goal here. We’re calling our campaign
‘Move30,’ not ‘Exercise30,’ because if you’re moving it doesn’t matter what
type of movement you engage in. As long as you meet the criteria for what
counts as ‘movement’ — which means moving enough to increase your heart rate
and speed up your breathing pattern — you get the benefits,” he explains. “So
we want you to find your own movement that you like doing, because if you’re
doing something you like, you’re more likely to keep doing it.”

3. Use all the resources at your disposal.

Craig says fitness companies are providing free resources online, such as instructional videos and recorded workouts, that make it easy to exercise at home. In addition, Wellness and Recreation has launched the WellRec at Home initiative to help people engage in fitness activities no matter where they are.

“Through WellRec at Home we’re
teaching about 30 virtual classes per week,” he says. “Anyone with a Unity ID can
log into a live class taught by one of our certified instructors in a variety
of formats — like yoga, cardio dance, kickboxing, barre — and it’s all free of
charge.”

To register for virtual classes,
first download and install the WellRec phone app.
Then use the app to register for the classes you want to take.

WellRec at Home also offers a
variety of prerecorded workouts for those who can’t attend a scheduled live class.
In addition, the initiative provides videos on meditation, mindfulness, stress reduction
and other practices that support mental and emotional well-being.

Beginning April 20, Wellness
and Recreation will also offer an online group wellness coaching program called
the Healthy
Living Series
. This four-week series of educational
sessions, available free of charge to all faculty and staff, will cover healthy
strategies for stress management, nutrition and mindful movement.

In Craig’s opinion, there’s an
unintended upside to all the gyms being closed: “One of the cool things about
exercising at home is that there’s no one there to see you or judge you,” he
says. “You can truly take it at your own pace.”

This post was originally published in NC State News.