By Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT
“Social distancing” has emerged as a defining term of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages Americans to keep a safe distance from others, generally 6 feet, to protect against COVID-19. Federal guidelines also call on Americans to refrain from any gatherings, meetings and social events attended by more than 10 people.
While those under the care of a physical therapist may wonder if they should cancel upcoming appointments, the truth is that consistent, prescribed therapy is an important step in the healing process. Your pain won’t resolve itself while staying at home; in fact, it may get worse. Physical therapy offices follow the same protocol for cleaning and sanitation as medical facilities, so the patient environment remains sterile. We encourage those undergoing physical therapy to connect with their therapy center to ensure they can continue receiving treatment as outlined in their individual plan of care.
In general, exercise helps your physical and mental health during times of crisis. Minimizing person-to-person interactions is key to controlling the spread of coronavirus, according to federal officials, but self-quarantining doesn’t mean you have to be stuck on the couch all day watching TV and munching on potato chips.
Your home may lack a NordicTrack, StairMaster or Nautilus, but there are ways to maintain an exercise regimen as the coronavirus continues to impact our lives:
- Stretching: Full-body stretching targets all major muscle groups and can improve flexibility, increase circulation and offer stress relief. It might not seem like exercise, but a solid stretching routine works up a light sweat.
- Stairs: If your home has multiple floors, head up and down the stairs a few times throughout the day. Just a few minutes here and there gets the heart pumping, the muscles moving and blood flowing throughout the body, which carries cells that kill harmful bacteria and viruses.
- Yoga: If you’ve previously attended a yoga class, incorporate your favorite exercises and poses into a workout routine that focuses on your core while also conditioning your arms, legs and back. Use a towel, blanket or throw rug for a yoga mat.
- YouTube: While Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda provided the bulk of workout videos back in the day, the internet is full of fitness personalities leading viewers through exercise routines. Just Google exercises for people your age and gender, and a variety of suggestions and videos will appear.
- Walk around the neighborhood: Coronavirus spreads from human interaction. Venturing outside for a brisk walk around your community, or a bike ride, provides exercise along with some much-needed fresh air and sunshine that supplies immune-boosting vitamin D.
This is a trying time for all of us. The coronavirus’ impacts on our health, well-being, work environment, finances, social life and society in general are enormous – and stressful. One of the best ways to relieve stress is through physical activity, so our physical therapy centers remain open to help patients achieve optimal health even during this time of crisis.
As always, consult with a trained medical professional prior to making any substantial exercise, dietary or lifestyle changes.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Mulvey, PT, is president