“If the benefits of exercise could be bottled, it would be the most prescribed medicine on the planet.”
Part two in our Coping with COVID-19 series focuses on physical activity and exercise and the role it plays in keeping us healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.
With people being asked to stay in their homes to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and reduce the burden on acute healthcare services, maintaining an active lifestyle can be a challenge.
With this in mind, a lecturer in the Department of Sport and Health Science at Athlone Institute of Technology has devised four simple ways to help people get physically fit and active, no matter their fitness level.
With more time available to them, people are actively looking for ways to break the daily routine of working or studying at home that don’t involve Netflix or some other form of electronic entertainment.
According to Dr Kieran Dowd, a lecturer who specialises in physical activity for health, sedentary behaviours, and physical activity interventions, now, more than ever, they should turn to exercise.
“If the benefits of exercise could be bottled, it would be the most prescribed medicine on the planet,” he says, adding: “It would be a tonic for our entire health system.”
Regular exercise has many health benefits, among them boosting the body’s immune response and amplifying its ability to fight off infection. It also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, specific cancers, and type 2 diabetes and releases feel-good chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, that improve mood and reduce stress.
Dr Dowd says beginners or people returning to exercise should start with some lower intensity aerobics exercises. “As with all aerobic exercise for beginners, start small and gradually increase the amount of time you spend exercising. The goal is just to move more,” he explains.
He recommends beginners check out 2kfromhome.ie, a new website offering guidance on how far the public can venture from their home under the current governmental restrictions. (See infographic 1).
For beginners or those returning to exercise that can’t or don’t wish to leave their houses, Dr Dowd suggests doing a home-based conditioning circuit.
“If you’re just starting your fitness your journey but find it difficult or can’t go out for a walk, this is a good option,” he explains.
This circuit includes six simple exercises that require no equipment, can be done in your bedroom/living room and are suitable for all abilities. (See infographic 2).
Follow the steps suggested in the circuit and work towards completing the circuit 5 times during 2-3 sessions each week.
For added motivation, Dr Dowd suggests putting on your favourite music. “Remember, all movement benefits our health, so turn up some of your favourite music and get active.”
For those that are more advanced and train in the gym quite regularly, he recommends trying out a home-based conditioning circuit (see infographic 3). “This is especially good for those looking to improve their strength-endurance,” he explains.
This circuit specifically targets the chest, back, abdominals and legs. “We recommend that you complete 8 – 15 repetitions per exercise, with 3 – 5 circuits per session. You should allow yourself 1-minute of recovery between circuits,” Dr Dowd adds.
For those involved in team or high intensity sports, he suggests trying out high intensity interval training also known as HIIT. “High intensity Interval Training is a cardio session arranged as short bursts of extremely demanding work,” he says.
The idea behind high-intensity training is to raise the intensity of your training so that you can reduce the time necessary to complete the session. “To benefit from HIIT, you’ll need to push yourself towards maximal effort during every rep and set of exercise,” Dr Dowd explains.
This type of training is used in intermittent high-intensity sports (e.g. team and racket sports) and can be used instead or in conjunction with slower/longer cardio exercise (See infographic 4).
*All activities are suitable for children. The Department of Sport and Health Sciences encourages people to include family members when completing these exercises.
For tips on how to manage stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out these downloadable resources (Available in multiple languages).
Visit www.ait.ie/covid19 for regular, up-to-date information about AIT’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Athlone Institute of Technology is a contemporary third level institute distinguished by academic excellence in teaching, learning and research. The institute was awarded The Sunday Times ‘Institute of Technology of the Year 2020, 2018 and Runner-Up in 2017. The institute also tops Ireland’s official league table for research and was listed in U-Multirank’s ‘Top 25 Performing Universities in the World for Interdisciplinary Research’ in 2018 and 2019. Athlone Institute of Technology is currently ranked number one nationally for student satisfaction - a position it has maintained for six consecutive years. For more information relating to the institute’s CAO programmes, visit www.ait.ie. #ChooseAIT