The Dos & Don’ts of Staying Active During the Pandemic
Dr. Laura Hagan of Touro's DPT Program Shares How to Stay Motivated, Accountable, and More
For obvious reasons, the pandemic we’re all facing is making it difficult for all of us to do anything we used to do, the way we used to do them. And that includes fitness.
As we do our best to stay safe and stay home, finding the motivation to move can be tough—and if you go on social at all, you’ve no doubt seen many memes that are joking about everyone's lack of self-control during this time.
But! We’re not letting you give up.
Dr. Laura Hagan, PT, PhD, DPT, MS is not only Touro SHS’s Associate Director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the Manhattan campus as well as a professor, but she’s also incredibly inspiring when it comes to working out and treating your body right.
So while you practice social distancing, here are some great dos and don'ts to consider that will help you come out of all this still feeling great.
Do some sort of exercise every day
Just doing something, anything, every day is better than giving up completely—not just for your body, but for your mental and spiritual health too.
“This is our new normal for now, so we can’t neglect our health,” says Dr. Hagan. “We have to keep moving.” Her advice is that whatever form of exercise you’re able to stick with is what you should do. If that means going for a walk on a daily basis, go for a walk. If you like to run, run. “I like to sprint,” she adds. “So I’ll sprint up and down my block and between each sprint, I’ll do push-ups or sit-ups.”
If you like instruction, check out the Peloton app—even if you don’t have the bike. Dr. Hagan shares that they’re offering a 90-day free trial; she’s done yoga, strengthening, and flexibility and says they’re great classes. And remember, you don’t have to dedicate a ton of time—10 to 15 minutes is still better than nothing.
Do get into a routine
Now that your house has become where you pretty much do everything, coming up with a schedule can keep you on track and also help you divvy up your time—exercise time, family time, work time, and so forth.
“It’s always hard in the beginning to start something new, but once you get into a routine, you kind of crave that routine,” says Dr. Hagan.
Need some accountability? Try what she and her friends are doing: Every other day, at the same time, they open up their computers and meet online—and then work out together. “We’ll decide today is, say, arms day, so we’ll find a workout on Instagram or YouTube and do the reps together.” Not only are you held accountable, but it’s fun to have that kind of meeting built into your day, she adds.
Do check your posture when you’re on those Zoom calls
Although this isn’t an exercise tip, it’s certainly important for your body. You know all those online meetings you’re sitting in on now? How you sit matters.
Dr. Hagan says we tend to fall into a “forward head posture,” our necks get tight, and our shoulders start to round.
So every so often, do a posture check (put it a Post-it on your computer to remind yourself). “Bring your shoulders back. Sit with your feet on the floor—not cross-legged on the seat. Open up your chest. Chin tucked in,” she explains.
On top of resetting your posture sitting down, she adds, try getting up every 20 minutes so your hips don’t get too tight. Take a few nice deep breaths and reset your posture standing up, or better yet, walk around for a few minutes before returning to your chair.
Don’t worry if you don’t have gym equipment
Ordering gym equipment for delivery can be costly, and not to mention, a lot of places are sold out right now. The good news is that there’s a lot of bodyweight exercises you can do. Dr. Hagan suggests regular squats, wall sits, push-ups, burpees, planks, and dips.
“If you have stairs in your house, you can do step-ups,” she says. “Holding those slow and controlled movements, you’ll still feel that muscle burn.”
And if you do want weights, look around for household items like jugs of water or cans. “I put my daughter on my back the other day because I needed some weight!”
Don’t let bad weather be an excuse
Or depressing news headlines. Or the fact that some of your friends may be forgoing their exercise routines for now.
“Every moment of the day, you’re making choices,” says Dr. Hagan. If you make a choice to sit on the couch all day, just know what the outcome of that choice is going to be: you’ll get out of shape, you’ll feel weaker, you may gain weight.
“I’m not saying it’s not hard, but you can always start with small steps. Get up off the couch, that’s number one. Put those sneakers on, step number two. Get out the door. Making all those small steps and decisions lead up to being healthy and getting out there and exercising," she explains.
As for that gloomy weather? So what if it’s a little drizzly, she says. Throw on some music and create your own sunshine. “You’re out there doing something for yourself. There’s something positive to be had in that,” she says.
Don’t dwell on slip-ups
Raise your hand if you’re hard on yourself when you don’t follow through on your schedule or your intentions. It happens! But if there’s one thing Dr. Hagan wants you to remember in those moments, it’s this: We need to forgive ourselves and move on.
“If you didn’t hold true to whatever it is you set out to do, it’s fine. No problem. If you miss a day of exercise, do it the next day. If you wanted to change your eating habits but went ahead and had that cupcake, it’s okay. Enjoy the cupcake, and eat something clean for your next meal.” Rather than perseverate over the mistakes or the things that you did in the past, she says, move on and look to the future.
That’s what Dr. Hagan tells her DPT students when it comes to grades or not doing well on a test. “Find out why you didn’t do well and then move on. You have to look to the future. Because you can’t change that grade—just like you can’t change that cupcake. But you do have control over what you do next. You got this!"
Is physical therapy something you’re interested in?
If you studied related course material in college—like biology, or exercise physiology—and you like the idea of helping people, you may want to seriously consider the DPT program at Touro SHS.
Dr. Hagan says, “I always tell my students, half of your treatment is your relationship with the patient. It’s not what you do. It’s how you relate to them. How you listen and how you speak to them. If you have a good relationship with your patients and they trust you, they’re going to have good outcomes.”