COVID-19 Response: Why exercise is more important than ever

Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is reminding all Australians that exercise remains as important as ever to help keep our population healthy. “Most Australians are currently nervous about the potential impact of COVID-19, and we wanted to take the opportunity to remind everyone that we should still consider physical activity for two key reasons. Firstly, research does show that exercise can support our immune system and secondly, exercise is proven to support our mental health,” explains Anita Hobson-Powell, Chief Executive Officer of ESSA.

Some contemporary evidence shows that leading a physically active lifestyle reduces the incidence of communicable (e.g., bacterial and viral infections) and non-communicable diseases (e.g., cancer), implying that immune competency is enhanced by regular exercise bouts.

Other recent research supported this fact by establishing that those who undertake strenuous exercise such as marathon runners tended to report less annual sick days.

“We all understand that exercise supports our physical health, however, during times of crisis such as this, it is the first activity we tend to ignore. Being active can not only keep us healthy, it can also help us fight off infection.” Say’s Hobson-Powell.  “Exercise is also unique in that it can boost our mental health, and during this anxious time it’s more important than ever to keep our minds clear and focused.”

ESSA is not only urging young people to move more; people of all ages should engage in physical activity. In 2018, a study by University of Birmingham and King’s College London found that 125 non-smoking amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 still had the immune systems of young people. “What is important to understand, however, is that balance and undertaking the right exercise is important for each individual. In some instances, excessive exercise can reduce your immune system for a period of time, therefore, as we always promote – exercise right for who you are and speak to a trained professional.” 

Top Coach Tips:

  1. If you are a beginner, train like one, not like you did when you were younger!
  2. Start slow and build up gradually
  3. Don’t start at the top. We have lot’s of beginners sessions for a reason. If you’re not in shape, try some light workouts first. But don’t get ‘comfortable’ in beginners. Once those become a breeze, slowly acclimate yourself to higher levels of intensity. Always keep tabs on how your body is feeling. If you ever feel too tired from a workout, scale it back the next time you exercise.
  4. Plan your workouts for the week ahead (Don’t forget to check the weather forecast- Go Gav!)
  5. Keep an Exercise Diary
  6. Program. Aim for at least 3 ‘cardio’ sessions a week and 2 ‘resistance’ sessions to build strength
  7. Variety is key to longevity. Don’t do the same thing every day. For example, if you walk every day, your body will adapt and get use to it.
  8. Change your routine constantly to keep your body guessing. Don’t get ‘comfortable’!
  9. Warm Up. Always warm up properly, focusing on your weak areas and imbalances. Learn what mobility drills are suitable for you.
  10. Program your cardio (Moderate aerobic exercise) the day before or the day after your resistance exercise day (Weights, bodyweight etc) 
  11. Do core with or as part of your cardio for at least 15 minutes twice a  week e.g the warm up
  12. Program Rest days after days you hit your peaks or your hardest day. 
  13. Consistency is Key. Never have two days off in a row from exercise. It just makes it that much harder to maintain a routine. 
  14. Be sceptical who you take your advice from. Do they have experience or understand injury prevention? Do they have a history of getting the results you want?

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