COVID-19 Resources

Stay Healthy, Stay Active: How to Exercise During COVID-19

Apr. 22, 2020

Daily physical activity is important to our overall health and wellness.

Lauri Erway Nandyal, MD, associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Integrative Health and Wellness affiliate, explains that exercise and movement activities can help:

  • Reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Reduce body fat.
  • Increase metabolism.
  • Maintain strong bones.
  • Boost your immune system.
  • Improve your mood and overall sense of well-being.
  • Improve how you sleep.
“The mind and body are intimately connected. The way we move can also affect the way we think and feel.” Lauri Erway Nandyal, MD

How much exercise should I be doing?

For most adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • Thirty minutes of aerobic activity, five days a week.
  • A strength training activity, two days a week.

Aerobic activities get your heart pumping and deliver oxygen to your muscles. This includes walking, running, dancing, cycling and much more. Strength training helps improve the condition of your muscles. These activities include lifting weights, using resistance bands and practicing yoga.

Exercise requiring moderate effort is safe for most adults. However, if you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting or changing your exercise program.

How can I keep up with my daily exercise routine if I am staying home?

You may have to adapt if you are used to going to the gym or being active with friends. Here are some tips to help you to keep moving:


Stretching your muscles before and after any exercise can be just as important as working out itself. Stretches are typically targeted to a specific area, so it is important to learn a few key stretches. Certain stretching exercises that may be beneficial for pre-and post-exercise but also help loosen up your body after sitting for too long include

Upper Body Stretches

These can be done before a workout or even at your desk to break up a work from home day.

  1. Tricep Stretch
    •    Raise your arm and bend it back toward your shoulder blade.
    • Use your opposite hand to pull your bent elbow toward your head.
    • Hold this for 10-30 seconds.
    • Repeat on the opposite side.
  2. Forward/Upper Back Stretch
    • Raise both arms to shoulder height.
    • Lower your head in between your arms, pressing forward.
    • Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  3. Trunk Rotation
    • While sitting in a chair, place your feet firmly on the ground.
    • Rest one arm on the back of the chair.
    • Twist your upper body in the same direction of the arm resting on the chair.
    • Hold for 10-30 seconds.
    • Repeat on the other side

Hip Adductor Stretch

Your hip abductors are the muscles near your hip and upper inner thigh, including your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae (TFL). Strengthening these muscles help with stabilization, and knee and hip injury prevention.

  1. Sit on the floor.
  2. Place your feet so that your soles are touching and your knees are pointed outward.
  3. Taking your own comfort in mind, pull your heels in toward your groin.
  4. Place your hands on each knee and slowly push your knees toward the floor.
  5. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
  6. Repeat two to three times.

Lumbar Stretch

Lumbar stretches focus on the muscles in your lower back. Stretching these muscles can help reduce lower back pain.

  1. Lay on your back on the floor. Feel free to use a yoga mat or a towel if you’d like.
  2. Bend one knee and keep the same foot on the floor. Be careful not to press your neck or lower back into the floor.
  3. Pull the opposite knee towards your chest. Clasp your hands under your thigh to help you pull.
  4. Switch legs.
  5. Repeat two to three times for each leg.

Take a walk or jog

Try scheduling 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon to take a walk. This is an easy way to break up your day and get in 30 minutes of physical activity. Walking outside provides vitamin D, a key nutrient in strengthening your immune system.

Go online to stay fit

In the digital age, we have access to virtual workouts from yoga to kickboxing to strength training. Even your local gym might be posting workout videos for all age groups on social media. Try looking for one that meets your interests and fitness level. Some popular apps and online programs include Daily Burn, Map My Fitness by Under Armour, and Yoga by Adrienne*. You can also check out The Yoga Groove with Sharon Byrnes, who is a UC Health Integrative Medicine yoga instructor as well.

Try bodyweight exercises

There are many ways to do strength exercises without the use of equipment like weights and machines. Some movements may be more advanced and difficult such as the classic push up or squat, but there are less strenuous modified versions of these exercises. An example could be the “wall push”, which is just a nearly vertical version of the classic military push up.

Use what you have at home

If you do not have weights at home, you can use items you may already have. Depending on your fitness level, you can use anything from soup cans to water jugs as weights.

Too much of a good thing

Exercise helps with stress and anxiety, but too much exercise is not healthy either. Dr. Nandyal cautions that some people may, “deal with stress by ultra-controlling their regimen.” Too much exercise can have the opposite effect on your physical and mental health, leading to injuries, exhaustion, and depression. If you feel that exercise is beginning to regulate your daily life, it is important to reach out to your primary care physician.

*These apps and online programs are not affiliated or endorsed by UC Health. Some may have subscription fees associated.