Self-Care in Self-Quarantine

Maintaining regular exercise during the stay-at-home order benefits both body and mind.


screenshot by Maddie Kantz

My daily walking and jogging route allows me to incorporate exercise into my schedule and help to strengthen my body and mind during this difficult time.

Dating back to our elementary school gym classes, we have been regularly reminded of the importance of building exercise into our daily routines.  If the lesson hasn’t sunk in by now, the quarantine is an opportune time to begin the path to fitness.

Year after year, our phys ed teachers stressed the magic number 60. We were told to never forget the importance of 60 minutes of exercise every day. But it’s all too easy, especially now, to lose sight of how of how much our bodies — and our minds — need physical exercise.

Social distancing poses a new set of challenges to our health. The ability to socially interact is a source of wellbeing, and multiple studies have found that social distancing may negatively impact our mental health and even trigger a depressive episode.

Exercise can calm the mind and offer a distraction from the seemingly endless negative thoughts that fuel depression. Research has shown that partaking in a regular physical activity routine can help not only to relieve depression symptoms but also to help lower the risk of relapsing. Furthermore, people with anxiety may also benefit from regular exercise, as it can enable them to become more cognizant of their current mental state and practice distracting themselves from the fears that trigger their anxiety. 

Additionally, exercise has been proven to be both a mood and energy booster. When we exercise, our brains produce endorphins. The increased level of endorphins in our bodies correlates with a boost positive feelings and even a reduced perception of pain. 

Web MD

Moreover, the surge of endorphins lifts concentration levels along with self-confidence. Exercise can stimulate the production of hormones that enhance the growth of new brain cells; the hippocampus, a part of the brain crucial for memory and learning, has been shown to grow in size as a result of stimulation from exercising. Additionally, regular exercise plays a vital role in preventing mental age-related decline and has been proven to minimize changes in areas of the brain responsible for Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.   

Contrary to popular belief, the intensity of your workout is not especially important. Rather, the long-term benefits that exercise has on your mood are highly dependent on the simple choice to exercise or not. If you choose not to participate in regular exercise of any intensity, the effects are seen fairly quickly. One study showed that stopping regular exercise resulted soon thereafter in an increase in negative moods. 

Regular exercise also correlates with better sleep quality, Any type of aerobic activity can help improve sleep. One study found participating in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise weekly can improve sleep quality up to 65%. 

There are also potential benefits that exercise has on both skin health and its appearance. Participating in even moderate exercise regularly has been shown to lead to an increase in the production of the body’s natural antioxidants, which help protect cells. When exercising, blood flow is also stimulated along with adaptations of skin cells, which aid in slowing down the process of physical skin aging. 

For many of us, the stress we are feeling today may affect our future. We’re all in great need of some relief, and exercising regularly can provide us with the relaxation we all deeply desire. Physical activity helps to relax muscles and relieve tension throughout the body. It has long been understood that, when your body feels better, your mind will follow.

Much in the world today is out of our control, and uncertainties appear to be piling up. It is not difficult to feel overwhelmed, but we still have control over ourselves. So later this afternoon, begin anew.  Take a brisk walk.  Jog around the neighborhood.  Work out in your basement. Or pursue whatever exercise you think you might enjoy.  Your body and your mind will thank you this evening.