MAINTAINING AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE

Active Lifestyle illustration

While many people struggled to maintain an active lifestyle prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, now even more factors contribute to a sedentary lifestyle: work and school have transitioned online causing increased screen time, fitness facilities and parks have closed or reduced their operating hours, and social interaction is limited due to physical distancing guidelines..

A group of Kent State University professors, Jacob Barkley, PhD, Andrew Lepp, PhD, and Ellen Glickman, PhD, from the College of Education, Health and Human Services, joined with current and former Kent State doctoral students (now at other universities) to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on physical activity and sedentary behavior. They published their findings in the International Journal of Exercise Science.

In a before-and-after pandemic comparison of more than 400 university students and employees, they found that those who were most active prior to the onset of COVID-19 were the most negatively affected. Those who were not highly active before the pandemic were able to increase their physical activity, perhaps because of time saved by eliminating the daily commute. But all participants in the study reported a significant increase in daily sitting, which is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes—and even a greater risk of dying earlier.

With coronavirus cases on the rise, we can expect current social distancing measures and limited access to recreational facilities to continue. Here are three ways to maintain positive health behaviors and stay active through the winter months and beyond:

1. MINIMIZE SITTING FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME. Many people are still working from home and spending an inordinate number of hours sitting in front of their computer each day. Minimize the amount of time spent sitting by investing in a standing desk or taking breaks to stand, stretch and move around throughout the day.

Hiking

2. EXERCISE OUTSIDE OR AT HOME. If you can’t make it to the gym, or don’t want to, there are other ways to exercise at home. Outdoor activities like biking and hiking or an online workout class are great ways to get moving. Even light activity, like a walk, can help reduce stress and get your blood flowing.

3. INCORPORATE ACTIVITY INTO YOUR ROUTINE. Scheduling Zoom meetings has become part of our daily lives, so why don’t we schedule time for activity, too? Before, during or after work, set aside some time for physical activity. It will not only be better for your physical health—it can improve your cognition and productivity, too.

—Jacob Barkley, PhD, professor of health sciences; Andrew Lepp, PhD, professor of recreation, park, and tourism management, School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration; and Ellen Glickman, PhD, director and professor of health sciences, College of Education, Health and Human Services. See published study

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