Another Lockdown? Don't Forget About Exercise

Zachary Walston

Whether you have a regular exercise routine or are completing an administered home exercise program by your physical therapist, continuing these rituals can have significant positive impacts during this period of isolation. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the beneficial effects exercise has on mood, cognition, alertness, and energy levels in addition to the more traditionally known benefits of cardiovascular health, strength, endurance, and weight control. When assessing the benefits of exercise and the improvements we achieve, it is important to consider a phenomenon known as the reversibility principle.


There’s good news and bad news regarding this phenomenon. The reversibility principle, in essence, highlights how our body responds to detraining or stopping exercise for an extended period of time. As we train or exercise, we build strength, endurance, and power, but when we stop exercising, those effects can deteriorate quite rapidly (bad news). We can recover those effects quicker than the initial duration and intensity needed (good news). With that said, there still is a period of time needed to regain the losses quickly accumulated by stopping our exercise.


So how does this apply to you during the social distancing period? Maintaining your exercise regimen or home exercise program can stave off a reduction in recently gained physical improvements. Taking it one step further for patients, it can also reduce the return of symptoms previously conquered in the clinic. When assessing the evidence on the effectiveness of home exercise programs, the key to success is intensity. A home program fails when the adherence is poor and the intensity is low. If those are both appropriate and comparable to your effort in the clinic, then similar benefits can be obtained! Overall, we see the best outcomes when combining in-clinic care with home care, but given the current situation, continuing your exercises at home can at least maintain the improvements made in therapy.

For those who don’t have the luxury of exercise equipment at home, there are many ways to challenge yourself and complete a valuable, intense workout. The first is by manipulating variables of exercises. Whether you are using objects at home (such as a jug of water) or body weight (such as body squats), you can significantly challenge yourself by changing the speed of movement (squat down slowly and stand up quickly), performing isometrics (wall sits or planks to fatigue), using plyometrics (squat jumps), changing rest breaks (e.g. circuit training), or increasing rep count (can still build muscle with sets of 50 as long as it is difficult and you are approaching fatigue).

Getting creative and changing your exercises frequently can also increase the stimulus and motivation to complete your routine.

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I am a physical therapist, researcher, and educator whose mission is to challenge health misinformation. You will find articles about health, fitness, medical care, psychology, and professional development on my site. As the husband of a real estate agent, you will also find real estate and housing tips.

Atlanta, GA

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