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Exercise During the Pandemic


Dino Lin, Stella Zhang and Wowo Lin, 5, exercise using filled water bottles as weights as they watch a fitness class online at their house, during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, February 25, 2020.

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy – both physically and mentally. Studies show that it can help strengthen the body’s natural defenses against disease.

But exercise does not just keep us healthy. For many people, it is part of their daily routine, making then feel better about themselves.

Getting enough exercise at difficult times, such as the current coronavirus pandemic, is important. However, because of the current restrictions and social distancing, some ways of exercising have changed or are simply gone.

So, people are changing how they exercise during this pandemic.

Exercising outside has changed.

Those who only exercise indoors might now consider moving their exercise routine outdoors.

This is the advice of Joe Khabbaza a doctor and heart specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Simply walk outside in nature,” Khabbaza said. “People can use this as an opportunity to exercise in other ways.”

But in areas with stay-at-home orders or enforced social distancing, exercising outside may not be as simple as it sounds.

Under a stay-at-home order, only essential activity is permitted. Most stores are closed. But people are permitted to leave their home for food and fuel, to see a doctor or for recreation.

In most places, going outside for exercise or other forms of recreation comes with restrictions. For some people, the restrictions seem complex and even conflicting. And some people are simply not following them.

A woman crosses the Concorde square as she rides a bike during a nationwide confinement to counter the new coronavirus in Paris, Friday, April 10, 2020. (AP photo)
A woman crosses the Concorde square as she rides a bike during a nationwide confinement to counter the new coronavirus in Paris, Friday, April 10, 2020. (AP photo)

Reuters news agency recently reported that French officials have increased restrictions in Paris. They have banned people from taking part in outdoors sports activities between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The more extreme restrictions come after French politicians and doctors showed concern that Parisians were still jogging and gathering in groups. Earlier the government had ordered people to stay in their homes as much as possible.

In the Washington, D.C. area, when people continued to gather in groups larger than 10 people without following social distancing rules -- many basketball courts and playgrounds were closed.

Beachgoers are seen at Venice Beach, Saturday, March 21, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. (AP photo)
Beachgoers are seen at Venice Beach, Saturday, March 21, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. (AP photo)

Michelle Quinn is VOA’s Silicon Valley Bureau Chief. She wrote recently about the situation in the San Francisco Bay area.

Quinn noted that “a lot of people flocked to the parks, playgrounds and beaches around here. The authorities had to shut them down. The areas were so crowded, health officials worried people couldn’t — or wouldn’t — stay 6 feet apart.” Six feet is about two meters.

Even walking or riding a bicycle raises issues.

If you are walking with a non-family member, you must stay at least two meters apart. Police can break up gatherings of more than 10 people or advise people of the distancing restrictions.

Quinn noted that if you do not follow the restrictions, you may be the target of criticism, both in person and on social media.

Exercise online

In some places, going outside for exercise or playing sports on a team are a not permitted. Gyms, recreation centers and exercise studios are not open.

So, some people are turning online to exercise. The physical fitness industry is also moving to online training. The Associated Press news agency contacted industry representatives and other people.

Beth Berglin is the director of a charitable group in Miami, Florida. Before the pandemic, her exercise routine involved going to boot camp-style classes four mornings a week. Now, the area where she trains is closed. But she is staying active through online classes.

“Part of the reason we exercise is to have that mental break,” she said. “I can’t imagine getting through this without having some form of physical activity.”

Businesses adjusting as well

Some fitness companies are changing to meet the new environment. Recreation centers and fitness studios across the United States are helping people stay active by offering online classes, some of which are free or have reduced cost.

Some fitness centers are offering longer trial periods for at-home workouts. During a trial period, people can try a product or service for free.

Some fitness trainers have completely moved their training programs online. Many of these online exercise classes are made for smaller spaces and do not require any special equipment.

Fitness companies that have been using an online model seem better prepared than others. They are using the pandemic to expand their fitness offerings and appeal to new customers.

Tracey Pucci and son Foxton Harding, 12, watch an exercise video created by Foxton's teachers at Northshore Middle School as the school district moves to online learning for two weeks because of the new coronavirus, March 11, 2020. (Photo: Reuters / Lindsey Wassen)
Tracey Pucci and son Foxton Harding, 12, watch an exercise video created by Foxton's teachers at Northshore Middle School as the school district moves to online learning for two weeks because of the new coronavirus, March 11, 2020. (Photo: Reuters / Lindsey Wassen)

Those customers include children who are now learning at home during the pandemic.

Founders of one online exercise company, named Obe, told the Associated Press that they received requests for children’s classes from parents. So, they launched four 10-minute dance and strength workouts for children 10 years old and younger.

These days, getting exercise may be more difficult. But people are changing their behavior and are finding new ways to exercise and to stay healthy.

I’m Anna Matteo.

The Associated Press and VOA News reported this story. Anna Matteo adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

routine n. a regular way of doing things in a particular order

pandemicn. medical : an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world

opportunity n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

studio n. a room, building or other place where fitness classes and instruction take place

charitable adj. done or designed to help people who are poor, sick, etc.

boot camp n. a very difficult training program

essential adj. extremely important and necessary

recreation n. something people do to relax or have fun : activities done for enjoyment

flock – v. to gather or move in a crowd

authority – n. a person with the power to give orders

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