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Wellness in the Time of Corona

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There have been no parts of our lives left unscathed by the coronavirus and that can have an equally large impact on our well-being. Our routines whether healthy or not have been thrown into disarray, but it's also forced us to re-evaluate some habits that we had created. Dining out frequently was given up in favor of eating in, commutes in traffic were replaced by a few precious minutes of quiet in the morning or even more sleep. While we can't ignore the negative aspects of this pandemic, we can choose to focus on the positive and be more protective of our well-being in the future.

We've now been living with COVID-19 here in Oklahoma for seven months and it has been a roller coaster as we're figuring out how to go about living our lives while protecting our families and neighbors. We have had changes and new challenges
coming at us at a very rapid pace. It can be difficult to keep up, but we also need to remember to take care of ourselves. Putting into practice healthier habits can help us find a sense of calm in this ever-changing world.

Practice Mindfulness
In times of stress, our minds can become frantic with fight or flight mode kicks into high gear often. Being mindful is no longer just some new-age fad, researchers have actually found that a 10-minute daily meditation practice could improve sleep and
reduce anxiety in participants during a coronavirus quarantine. Another mindfulness practice to help keep things in perspective is gratitude journaling which helps you be more conscious of the little things in life. The Mayo Clinic offers a 4 week self-guided program that is free to participants online.

Get Daily Exercise
The benefits of exercise and physical activity are abundant but in the time of coronavirus we'll concentrate on mental, emotional and immune well-being. While I want to be funny and quote Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, I'll spare you and
instead let you know that exercise increases endorphin levels (feel good hormones). This can have a calming effect on the brain and reduce general aches and pains that can creep up in times of mental distress. This in turn can calm our emotions and reduce anxiety.

Getting in exercise each day doesn't have to be a chore, you can do anything that you will enjoy, just move your body. Getting regular physical activity can also help boost immune levels to viruses. This would possibly include buffering the immune
response to COVID-19, but more research is needed in this area. One caveat is that if you have not been physically active you need to start slow, rushing in too hard and too fast can hinder your immune response. And if you have recently recovered from the virus it is especially important to be mindful of your body and energy levels to prevent relapse.

Keeping, Starting or Restarting Your Routine
Keeping your wellness routine going when everything is in flux can be quite challenging. I've noticed a lot more walkers in the neighborhoods and there have been an abundance of online resources available like Y360 for online group exercise classes. A lot of keeping your routine going can be around thinking about things differently. If you're used to lifting heavier weights you may have been limited to light household items for more repetitions. This can be frustrating, but it is doable. Starting a new routine can be challenging if you don't know where to begin. Many of the videos on Y360 can be completed by beginners. Even the classes designed for seniors can be helpful for beginners as well. The most important thing is to start slowly. If you go too hard, too fast you'll likely be too sore to keep going. The same goes for those wanting to restart an exercise routine, don't be surprised if you can't lift near the weight you used to or go as far with a lack of endurance.

Keeping Yourself & Others Safe
If you are feeling ready to re-enter a fitness facility in order to get in your workout you can help protect yourself and others by staying home if you feel unwell, have been exposed to someone that has tested positive, or have been tested and are waiting
on results. Remember to stay socially distanced and wear your mask. For most healthy people it is perfectly safe to exercise while wearing a mask, those with pulmonary issues should follow their doctors' advice. Yes, it's safe. A doctor in the UK ran 22 miles wearing a 3 layer mask and a pulse oximeter (oxygen measurement device) to prove that it is safe to wear while exercising, his oxygen levels never dropped below 98%. But what about surfaces? At the YMCA we recommend cleaning equipment before and after each use. Before use, we recommend that you wipe down surfaces by spraying the rag first and wiping of anywhere you'll need to touch. After use, spray the rag to wipe any electronic faces and for any handgrips or spots you touch just spray and walk away. And of course, be sure to wash your hands often.

What We're Doing to Help
Here at the YMCA we are checking temperatures of anyone wishing to enter the building and we require face masks to be worn when entering. Face masks are required anywhere that you are not exercising, so for our branch (YMCA Healthy
Living Center- INTEGRIS) that includes the lobbies and locker rooms. Masks are recommended, but not required on the fitness floor and group exercise studios. Our facility is laid out in a way that promotes social distancing and we have cardio
equipment blocked of to prevent breathing on one another. Our already high emphasis on cleaning has been heightened since we re-opened with not only our detailed cleaning but frequent fogging and spraying of equipment throughout the facility. Our group exercise studios have plenty of room for participants to spread out, our instructors recommend cleaning with the solution provided and several recommend masks in their classes.

We've also been providing resources like Y360 to our members and other digital resources through our new app. The new app combines exercise and activity tracking with fun challenges and Y info. One of our favorite features that we've been
playing with is a BioAge test that lets you know exactly where you're at with your training and where any imbalances may be that you need to improve.

Another way that we're helping people start or restart their routine exclusively at the YMCA HLC is by offering reduced contact training. Members have the option to choose from personal training within the facility with their trainer while maintaining
proper social distancing and wearing masks or one of 3 digital options that can be completed as homework within the facility or even at home. This way they are guided by an expert while getting their physical activity and feeling safe.

When You're Ready to Return We're Here for You
Staying healthy while practicing wellness is possible with the right precautions and mindset. Being extra vigilant as well as cleaning before and after use can help reduce the spread. With a new way to look at things and perhaps trying things in a
new way too you can maintain or even start to take back your wellness. When you're ready to return we're here with a few new tricks up our sleeve to help you with your wellness journey.

About the Author - Jessica Allen is the Membership & Healthy Living Director for the YMCA Healthy Living Center-INTEGRIS at NW Expressway and Independence. She got her MSc in Exercise Science at UCO and has ACSM CPT & EIM L1, USAW L1, Precision Nutrition L1, GGS L1 & Pre/Post-Natal, and is completing Wellcoaches Certified Health & Wellness Coach for her NBC-HWC.

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