For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the resources and spaces we have access to for meeting our physical, mental, and emotional needs. Earlier on in the pandemic, FORGE held a workshop about staying active during quarantine. While many of the tips and ideas from that workshop still apply now, the pandemic situation has shifted in some ways. With more and more people getting vaccinated, some of us may feel safe returning to places where we previously got some physical activity: the gym, a yoga studio, a group with friends, etc. Some of us may still feel unsafe in these kinds of spaces. Finding alternative ways to stay active during the pandemic can help us continue or start the activities we enjoy.
But first, what does “staying active” mean? Physical activity looks different for everyone. When people hear “exercise” or “staying active,” many think about running on a treadmill or lifting weights in the gym. In my experience, finding activities that are fun makes staying active feel less like a chore. Intense cardio may not be enjoyable for everyone! Luckily, there are many smaller (and hopefully more enjoyable) ways that physical activity can fit into our daily routines. For example, I’ve found that I really love rock climbing. Other less conventional ideas for moving our bodies include chair yoga, stretching, dancing, swimming, or roller skating!
What does physical activity do for us? Physical activity plays an important role in physical and mental wellbeing. Being active can help us fall asleep and stay asleep, which is essential for feeling energized during the day! It can also boost our energy and improve our mood. It can reduce stress and help us think more clearly.
Although this post is about being active, it’s equally essential to recognize that rest is very important, too! We are not experiencing normal times, and now more than ever, it’s important to give ourselves flexibility and compassion. It might not feel attainable to start a new physical routine right now, and that’s okay! Listening to and honoring our bodies’ boundaries when something doesn’t feel right is more important now more than ever, when we are all living under heightened stress due to COVID-19.
I encourage folks to experiment with adding a small amount of activity into their routine, like going for daily walks, and see how it affects your sleep, energy, and mood. Instead of focusing on how our bodies look, notice how your body feels when you move. What kinds of movement feel good? What kinds of activity bring you joy?
Even with the spread of new variants of COVID-19, spending time outdoors remains one of the safest options for being active with others. Meeting up with a friend to walk or roll around a park can meet both needs for movement and needs for connection. If you’re not able to meet in-person with someone, you might try talking on the phone as you both walk or jog, or try hosting a home movement session over Zoom!
Moving at home is another great option for folks who prefer to have privacy when being active. There are lots of great instructional videos on YouTube for different kinds of movement, and many of these do not require any kind of exercise equipment. You can experiment with an easy yoga routine for beginners to stretch and relax. If you’re interested in trying strength training, check out this beginner home workout made specifically for trans-masculine folks (the only equipment you need is a chair!)
There are also many different apps you can download on a smartphone for all kinds of activities, from practicing yoga, walking or running, or finding hiking and wheelchair accessible trails near you. Some of these apps include:
Today, think about what kinds of physical activities bring you joy, and how they might fit into your routine. Everyone is different, so movement and activity look different for everyone! Whatever kind of activity you enjoy, remember to stay hydrated, take breaks, and listen to your body!