Fitness remains a challenge during COVID-19 pandemic



The first months of the COVID-19 pandemic threw Jaden Fisher’s routine into a spiral as it made hitting the gym more of a chore than a choice.

“I used to train a lot, but when it hit I found out I had no motivation to go to the gym, so I put on weight,” Fisher said.

In the midst of the pandemic, Fisher was in a different state and his options for going to the gym were limited. She said it was only after returning from Georgia to South Dakota that she was able to re-engage in the routine she had before.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced gyms to close and people to stay indoors in the spring and summer of 2020, and many have gained weight due to the reduction in activity.

In a study published in the journal Obesity, 27.5% of those surveyed said they gained weight during the pandemic, while 33.4% of those who were obese gained weight.

Although overall healthy eating scores increased slightly due to fewer restaurant meals and an increase in cooking, sedentary behaviors increased and physical activity decreased, according to the study.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise that this normal news of the pandemic has made it harder to maintain healthy habits,” said Tiffany Krogstead, dietician at Sanford Health.

During a time of decreased physical activity, increased stress levels, and lack of motivation, it can be easy to fall into a complacent pattern of doing nothing, Krogstead said.

Krogstead also added that these stressful times can lead to various coping mechanisms, including food, which can make weight gain worse.

Take the turn

While businesses weren’t forced to close in the spring of 2020 in South Dakota, many gyms have. And many have stayed away from those who were open to caution.

But moving your body and staying active can be done from your own living room. Krogstead said the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day doesn’t have to be strenuous to be consistently effective.

“Even to get up and walk around it doesn’t have to be a lot,” Krogstead said. “A mid-morning break and a mid-afternoon break, then maybe in the evening, just try to be active throughout the day.”

Sometimes it is not that easy to find the motivation to follow normal routines at home.

For Lucas Anderson, 23, of Sioux Falls, he despised every home training moment because he said it didn’t reflect the intensity of his workouts at the gym.

“I didn’t appreciate everything, because it was hard to feel the same atmosphere as in the gym,” he said. “I can definitely say that I haven’t trained as much or as hard at home.”

Home training doesn’t have to be an exact replica of your pre-COVID gym routine. Walking, running or cycling can present a challenge and it is even possible to maintain each other during the winter months with the proper equipment and preparation.

But for those who don’t want to go out during the winter, buying inexpensive workout gear online such as resistance bands and pull-up bars might help, according to advice from the Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic notes that even using objects around the house or performing movements that don’t require assistive equipment, as well as using online home workout videos on YouTube.

Another important aspect of staying healthy and controlling weight gain is to remember to watch your daily food intake.

Krogstead recommends focusing on portion sizes, meal planning, and avoiding sugary foods to stick to your plan for reaching goals.

Snacking and overeating during the early stages of the pandemic was one of the hardest parts for Anderson.

“I ate everything around,” Anderson said. “I’ve tried to make up for it by coming back to the gym a little more often and eating different things, but sometimes you can only do as much as you can.”

Through all the uncertain times, anyone can choose to stay in their comfort state or push the boundaries and turn their life where they want, Fisher said.

“This year that’s what I’m going to do with it,” Fisher said. “I was miserable, and the only thing that was going to make a difference was to go out and do it.”



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