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Coronavirus: Don’t let Covid-19 turn you into a couch potato

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If the Covid-19 pandemic has been your excuse to skip workouts, then you could be inviting trouble, fitness experts warned. Though staying active won’t prevent you from catching the virus, it can make a “huge difference” in your health, especially your immunity, they said.

When the outbreak prompted the authorities to roll out stay-home guidelines, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had been quick to remind that physical activity should still be part of a person’s routine.

“Regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind,” the WHO said. “It can reduce high blood pressure, help manage weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers – all conditions that can increase susceptibility to Covid-19.”

The global health authority said an adult must do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, or a combination of both. And these can be achieved at home, with limited equipment, it added.

A celebrity fitness trainer in Dubai, Yasir Khan, said that besides all the wonders it can do to your body, exercise helps you beat the virus-triggered stress and anxiety.

“It helps strengthen the immune system, and also releases endorphins that reduce stress and anxiety, a concern most people are facing during this time,” said Khan, who has been known for bringing about fat-to-fit transformations. “With movement limited as people are working from home, staying active through exercise can ensure that one doesn’t gain excess weight during this time.”

‘All mind work’

Another fitness trainer and nutrition coach, Maryam Shirinova, said getting fit and healthy starts by putting one’s mind into it.

“If you’ll look for excuses then you will find plenty. But if you want to find time for your health, then surely you will manage. It is all about what you prioritise,” Shirinova said.

“Physical activity is a great tool to prevent diseases, so start by making small achievable goals that are output-based and enjoyable, such as playing with your children, joining them during their online PE classes.”

Shirinova agreed that even a small amount of exercise can strengthn one’s immunity and improve mental health. “Although I have five children, I always make sure I take out time for my fitness,” she said.

‘Taking 16 million steps’

Fujairah resident Shameer Ali said he had seen for himself how people could develop health issues from working from home, so he and his friends decided to do something about it.

“We launched a ‘steps challenge’ that saw the participation of 104 men, mostly in their 40s and 50s. In a month, we recorded over 16 million steps in total and we even conducted a prize ceremony online to encourage participants to continue with the challenge.

“We were amazed at the level of participation we saw for this challenge and with the Dubai Fitness Challenge around the corner, we may once again start with the steps challenge that has actually transformed lives of people and given them the gift of health.”

Ali said that by finding new ways to get moving and stay motivated, people can take charge of their well-being during this time of pandemic.

These expats didn’t let the virus get in the way of their fitness goals

Karishni Damania, 24, had just begun her fitness journey when the stay-home protocols posed a big challenge.

“I did not know how I would be able to work out without going to the gym. Nonetheless, I started doing a lot of home workouts and a few outdoor exercises,” Damania said. As she went along, she realised that the home exercises also encouraged her family to get moving.

“I started noticing how a simple 30-minute exercise made a difference to my mood as well as my body,” she said.

Damania, who started her weight loss journey last year during the Dubai Fitness Challenge, had lost over 30kg in a year. From 91kg, she’s now down to 53kg.

Working woman Aarohi Surya said she made the most of the pandemic by converting her home into a gym.

“Getting daily workouts during the period was crucial not only for my physical health but my mental health as well,” the 27-year-old said.

Rather than having a rigid regime that involved high intensity workouts, Aarohi said she tried doing something different to keep herself motivated and active. “Dance routines, virtual reality games and monthly fitness challenges were the top three key motivations that kept me going.”


>Take short active breaks during the day: Short bouts of physical activity add up to the weekly recommendations. Dancing, playing with children, and doing chores such as cleaning and gardening are other means to stay active.

>Follow an online exercise class: Take advantage of the wealth of online exercise classes. Many of these are free and can be found on YouTube. If you have no experience performing these exercises, be cautious and aware of your own limitations.

>Walk: Even in small spaces, walking around or walking on the spot can help you remain active. If you have a call, stand or walk around your home while you speak, instead of sitting down.

>Stand up: Reduce your sedentary time by standing up whenever possible. Ideally, aim to interrupt sitting and reclining time every 30 minutes.

>Relax: Meditation and deep breaths can help you remain calm. A few examples of relaxation techniques are available below for inspiration.

SOURCE: World Health Organisation

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