GGC director of wellness and recreation gives tips to stay mentally and physically fit during the COVID-19 lockdown
For most people, staying in shape is a challenge even during the best of times. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing federal and state restrictions that have gyms and yoga studios from coast to coast closing their doors it might be harder than ever to motivate yourself to exercise, but there’s no reason to let the call of the couch woo you into inactivity, said Carl Woods, director of wellness and recreation at Georgia Gwinnett College.
“It’s a huge loss and almost depressing for some people when they can’t go to the gym every day,” said Woods. “But there are plenty of ways to stay active at home – and even people who don’t exercise regularly should set aside the time.”
Woods points out that exercise is good for the mind as well as the body, and in a crisis like this keeping one’s mental health is as important as anything.
“It’s really important to do the basic things – drink water, walk before and after meals, and watch your meal consumption because our bodies aren’t burning as many calories as they normally would going to our places of work and back each day. Doing the physical basics can set you on the path to holistic health.”
Parents might find their children are perfectly fine with hanging out in their rooms all day for weeks, but Woods said it’s equally important, if not more so, to keep them active as well. The American Medical Association recommends children get 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day.
“Find some family exercise time,” he said. “Have some fun with it. Go old school and play Red Light, Green Light, Simon Says, Red Rover, even good old Tag – those basic game-playing exercises help children with coordination and cognitive development which are so important. Make them think they’re just having fun when they’re really out there running, jumping and getting a workout.”
As for the adults, Woods suggested that some ways to get exercise can be quite productive. Home-bound Americans can use their extra time at the house as an excuse to do those repairs or projects they’ve been putting off, said Woods. “Clean out a closet or two,” he suggested. “Or get started on spring cleaning and storage. Even yard work is a great way to exercise.”
Woods also pointed out that, despite the unprecedented measures taken by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus, people are still not prisoners in their own homes. There’s no reason you can’t go outside and still abide by the restrictions that are in place in your respective city or county.
“Most people are thinking they can’t go out but couldn’t be farther from the truth,” he said. “We’re practicing social distancing, not complete isolation. We just have to be cognizant and respectful of other people’s space and make sure our hygiene is where it needs to be for the safety of others. So go to the park and have a walk, but be sure to choose a park or trail that is not crowded. If you have to pass someone, do it quickly and maintain that distance of six feet of separation. Be sure to check the park’s website or social media page for up-to-date hours of operation and/or closures. It might seem odd at first but this is our new normal for now.”
Here are Woods’ seven favorite tips to keep your mind and body in shape during this national crisis:
- Get outside! Take a walk, jog, or do yard work. At this time most municipalities are encouraging their residents to use public trails and parks to stay healthy.
- Add a little movement to your everyday routine: walk and converse on the phone instead of sitting, heel/toe raises at the kitchen sink, squats before sitting down, inline pushups on the steps as you go up, a few lunges down the hallway, etc.
- Use the internet in a different way: There are thousands of classes online for everyone at every fitness level that teach a spectrum of exercise programs, from CrossFit to yoga and everything in between.
- Do bodyweight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and lunges, or use common household items for weight resistance.
- Don’t forget to stretch! Flexibility is very important for overall health, especially as you get older.
- Exercise your brain. Try downloading a meditation app to your smart device or doing brain-buster puzzles.
- Drink plenty of water.
Carl I. Woods has been the director of wellness and recreation at Georgia Gwinnett College since 2014. He earned his undergraduate degree in health and physical education from Clark Atlanta University and his master’s degree in urban teacher leadership from Georgia State University. While working on his master's degree, he taught in the public school setting, coached football and track and field and started a family exercise club at Jean Childs Young Middle School. After completing his master's degree, Woods was a health and wellness coordinator at Georgia Perimeter College, where he built a health and wellness program from the ground up and coordinated events with a focus on fitness.
Woods is available to speak with reporters about fitness strategies and wellness events.