In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, stress is surely running high. We all are adapting to our new day-to-day routines. Whether that involves working on the front lines clad in new PPE gear, working from home while raising and teaching children, or living in isolation, all of these situations involve higher levels of stress.
In addition to the negatives associated with the emotional side of stress, there is also new evidence that stress actually counteracts the benefits of a healthy diet. In short, stress effects the metabolism and causes the body to process healthy meals (low in saturated fat) as unhealthy, spiking levels of inflammation.
What can we do? Well, there are a variety of proven methods to lower stress levels, but each of us are different. The key is to relax in ways that you find meaningful: talking to friends and family, meditating, partaking in your favorite self-care practices and, of course, exercising.
A great way to reduce stress and simultaneously enjoy our springtime weather (today is an excellent example!) is to get outside and exercise.
The below workout involves only bodyweight (no equipment required!) and is considered a Peripheral Heart Action circuit. PHA workouts alternate blood circulation from your upper and lower body, strengthening your heart and reversing negative effects of sitting for long periods of time (for all of you working at home!).
Warm up: 5-10 minutes of cardio. Walk, jog, or alternate between the two around the block once or twice.
Core, balance & flexibility focus – Perform this circuit twice, no rest between each set, 60 second rest between circuits:
- Forearm plank: Inhale and exhale fully and slowly, pulling in your abs, keeping your legs and back straight.
Modification: lower down to your knees rather than your toes. All other prompts remain the same.
Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Single leg balance reach: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and slowly lift one leg a few inches off the ground. Raise your leg laterally (to the side) to a comfortable height. Hold for 2 seconds, then slowly move the leg back in toward your standing leg.
Perform 8 repetitions per side.
- Shoulder taps: go to a “high plank” position – stack hands and elbows below shoulders, legs straight, up on your toes (or on your knees for a modification). Keeping your hips level and your core engaged, slowly reach one hand up and tap the opposite shoulder. Return your palm to the ground just as slowly and controlled.
Perform 10 repetitions, alternating sides.
Strength and resistance – perform this circuit three times with minimal rest between sets, 60 seconds of rest between circuits:
- Squats: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Begin to squat down as if you are about to sit in a chair. Knee tracks over the 2nd & 3rd toe, back and upper body remain upright, gaze is forward. Lower down until quads are just above parallel to the ground. Pause at the bottom, then slowly return to standing. Perform 10-12 reps.
- Push ups: Keep wrists and elbows directly in line below shoulders, palms flat on the ground. Core is engaged, back and legs are straight. To modify, keep your knees on the ground. Slowly lower your chest to the ground while not letting your elbows move too far away from your ribs. Lower down until you are a few inches from the ground then slowly push back up to the starting position.
Perform 8-10 reps.
- Squat jumps or jumping jacks: For a squat jump, repeat the above squat instructions, only instead of slowly returning to standing, spring out of your squat position into a jump (as high as you can!). Jumping jacks are an alternative.
Perform 8-10 squat jumps or 20 jumping jacks.
- Tricep dips: Locate secure bench or chair, then sit with your legs extended straight out in front of you and your back to the bench or chair. Place your hands shoulder width apart, palms down, on the bench. Your arms should be slightly bent, fingers facing forward. Straighten your arms to raise your body off the ground, pausing at the top with only a slight elbow bend, feeling your triceps activate. Slowly lower your body nearly down to the ground, elbows at a 90-degree angle, then press again to top.
Perform 8-10 reps.
- Step ups: Using the same bench, chair or a even something slightly higher, step one foot up, activating leg muscles to bring your other foot up onto the bench. Instead of standing with both feet on the bench, continue lifting your foot until your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds, then slowly step both feet down off the bench.
Perform 10 reps each leg.
Cool down by walking briskly around the block for 5-10 minutes. Slowly stretch upper and lower body.
By getting some fresh air, taking in the sights and sounds of nature and moving our bodies, we will naturally feel less stressed. Make a point to exercise moderately for 150 minutes per week, including some outdoor options!
Best of health,