Is It Time to Go Back to the Gym?
Why I'm not taking all that heavy breathing lightly.
At the brink of re-joining my gym after a very long Covid hiatus, a new study just gave me pause.
Two words: Aerosol particles.
Those microscopic bits of airborne matter really do matter when it comes to transmitting the coronavirus (if they’re coming from someone who is infected).
Obviously, we all exhale - but those breaths come fast and furious especially when we exercise strenuously. That happens when a jog becomes a run, or a spin class switches to intervals, where the going gets tough(er).
If you do choose to work out at a gym, the study’s authors recommend a few things:
increased ventilation in exercise rooms.
keeping a safe distance from your neighbor.
limiting your time in exercise rooms.
wearing a “good surgical mask” during gym visits.
So, for now, I have decided to keep my workouts at home. It’s been working for me for the last few years, though I miss the camaraderie and energy of a gym. But I feel safer knowing the only air I’m breathing in is my own. And wearing a mask while I’m exercising? No thanks.
But it can be quite a daunting task to untangle how to work out at home. I get it. It took me a while to figure it out and amass the type of equipment that I’d enjoy using, and it was a challenge to calculate how to store it all in a limited space.
Yet daunting does not have to equal impossible. And strength training does not need to equal heavy weights.
Here’s something many people don’t realize: You don’t even need equipment to get into shape. You can start using something that you carry with you every single day - your own body weight.
Easy moves like squats, lunges and donkey kicks (yes, there is such a thing) can work multiple muscles in your legs and glutes. Push-ups, planks and burpees can add even more strength to your body.
If you need some guidance, just google “at-home workouts” and you’ll find, oh, a zillion to choose from. Or take a look at this one, from SELF, which offers a mere 53 exercises to choose from. (Tip: you need not do all 53.)
Looking to simplify? Heed the advice of thePause’s own Fitness Maven, exercise physiologist Joan Pagano, who says that two sets of dumbbells (make the first one light and the second one two to five pounds heavier), plus a sturdy chair will get the job done. Joan, former trainer to Jacqueline and Caroline Kennedy, is a champion of home workouts. She should know - she trains women in the (limited space) of their New York City apartments. (Stay tuned for a future issue when we talk to Joan about one of her favorite topics, osteoporosis.)
And then there are those exercises you can do in places you’d never expect to do them, like push-ups against your kitchen counter while you’re waiting for the water to boil, or lunges and squats while you’re bingeing (Hacks? Ozark? Anatomy of a Scandal?) the latest version of whatever you’re enjoying these days. (If there’s something you’re loving that you’d like to recommend, please do tell.)
Before I sign off, I can’t resist this important PSA: If you’re already exercising, good for you! And if you’re not, it’s never (never, ever) too late to start. Research bears this out: Even if you’ve never had a regular exercise program, it’s still possible to become as buff as highly trainer master athletes around your age.
The benefits of exercise are so numerous, especially once we reach menopause, when our risk of goodies like osteoporosis and heart disease (among so many other conditions) climbs precipitously. Health conditions aside, exercise also benefits your:
Bone and muscles
Blood sugar and insulin levels
For a Pause…
Stretching - especially after a workout - is important to relax tense muscles, help with flexibility, prevent injury and more. Try stretching on a mat like this one for an extra-cushy feel.
If you’re looking for hand weights to add to your workout collection, this set gives a you a good range of choices. Remember, building muscle is not just about having sculpted arms, but it’s about function; like being able to lift a suitcase into the overhead compartment on an airplane or picking up your grandchild (or any other cute being!)
To build your core strength (super-important for balance and good posture), a plank is a great way to do it. Don’t be intimidated when you first start - the more you practice, the longer you’ll be able to hold the pose. You might not beat the Guinness World Record of 9 hours 30 minutes and 1 second, but if you put your mind to it, you might come close.
What’s the big deal about exercise and menopause? A lot, says the Mayo Clinic.
One More Thing…
Oh, those 80s workouts…aerobics, leg warmers and thong leotards (who in their right mind???). What fun I had! What, you too? Here’s a blast from the past:
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