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Movement is the New Gym Membership

Jessica Hagen

Last January, I had no idea who Anthony Fauci was and I liked it that way. But man, am I glad he exists because 2020 was a grim year and it helped to have an infectious disease expert relay what he was learning along the way regarding the dos and don’ts of COVID. 2020 started out difficult, ended difficult, and had a whole lot of "difficult" in between — the experience was basically like living through a year that was an actual palindrome. I learned a valuable lesson myself this year and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life — movement is incredibly important to keep my mind and body centered. I’m not talking about exercise alone. I mean movement in general! So, I vote for us all to change the way we think about our New Year’s resolutions. 


Vote for Action

Every year I make a New Year’s resolution: exercise more, see somewhere new, do something I’ve never done before, learn a new skill, and cook every weekend to discover different techniques (this resolution was by far the best one I made in the last couple of years). Most people I know vow to exercise more when the year starts and that’s why so many gyms make the majority of their profits around New Year’s. A lot of folks use their gym memberships, too (for the first couple of months at least). But instead of making a New Year’s resolution to exercise more, I say let’s vow to move more. After a year of being restricted from doing so much, let’s just pledge to do one thing — move. 


It's not like as soon as 2021 hit everyone magically got the vaccine, the pandemic was over, and things went back to normal. We're on our way, but not quite there yet. So, we have to consider our options.


Hold on… Let’s Rewind for a Minute

At the beginning of the pandemic, my mind was a bit all over the place. I suffered from writer’s block, mostly because all I could think about was my family, my friends, my neighbors, and everyone just staying safe. Keeping the news on to stay “up-to-date” was unnecessary and overwhelming, but I did it...all the time. My aunt actually called me to check on me one day. We had the occasional, “How are you? How are the kids?” But this call was different. I had a long conversation with her on the phone and the next day she called and said, “You sounded weird when we talked. Are you okay?” My immediate response was, “Yes, but I think I need to stop watching the news so much.” Turned out I was right. 


Before the pandemic, I exercised regularly. I had a baby last September and was working toward feeling good in my body again, but the pandemic hit and I stopped. Not because of the pandemic specifically, but because I wasn’t quite sure how to continue with everyone home during the shutdown and not going to the gym and all the new circumstances I had to consider — like going to the grocery store safely, how to teach my daughter at home with distance learning, et cetera. Life was turned upside down for all of us and exercise was the last thing on my mind. Then I figured it out — that was my problem! I wasn’t thinking straight! I wasn’t giving myself the time to concentrate on my mental health, which I personally do by exercising and letting my brain run wild while I do. Each time I move my body in some way, things become clearer and I relieve my stress, but I was depriving myself of that. What was I thinking?!


The Power of Movement

The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry published an article entitled, “Exercise for Mental Health,” in which researchers stated, “Evidence has suggested that exercise may be an often-neglected intervention in mental health care.” They continued, “Health benefits from regular exercise that should be emphasized and reinforced by every mental health professional to their patients include the following: improved sleep, increased interest in sex, better endurance, stress relief, improvement in mood, increased energy and stamina, reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness, weight reduction, and reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness.” I don’t know about you, but I want all of those things. Sign me up! 


Once I finally got myself back in order by not watching the news all the time and I figured out exercise was the key to my sanity, it was as if the clouds broke and the sunlight shone through...mentally. I began thinking more realistically about how COVID affects people, what I can do to keep myself and my family safe, and what our family can do to ensure anyone we came in contact with would be safe (i.e., window hangs). Movement was it! I had to get moving way more. But there was still a pandemic, so how was I going to do this safely and efficiently?  


Back to the Present


We’re about a year into this pandemic with hopefully only months left to go. We don’t know how many months, but let’s say we want to make a change sooner rather than later. Say you want to avoid large crowds, but want to get out into nature. You can find hiking trails near you at Alltrails.com and pick one that best suits you. There’s no guarantee that the trail won’t have other people on it, but keep your distance and wear a mask to stay as safe as possible. Maybe even go during times you don’t think the area you chose is busy. Get out into nature! It’ll decrease stress and help you feel more relaxed. 


Another option...walk around your neighborhood! If you can’t find a trail near you or don’t want to take any chances by being too close to others, explore your community. Find the little gems that immediately surround you. You’ll be able to discover local businesses, check out the neighborhood homes, and it’ll make you feel more connected to your immediate surroundings. 


If you’re like me and you enjoyed the gym and there was a specific piece of equipment you swore by, think about buying it for yourself. I was able to purchase my exercise bike when I realized how much I was saving by not paying for my yearly gym membership. Sometimes, the costs are comparable but most of the time, you'll end up spending way less on the piece of equipment (sorry gym owners). Put that bike, treadmill, elliptical, or whatever you decide works for you in the best spot in the house where you’ll use it most often, even if it’s by the window in the living room that looks out onto the street. No one will be coming over for a while anyways, so you might as well love the spot, right? Plus, you can always move it later.  


One last thing to remember, movement in any form has been shown to boost ingenuity. Whether you’re exercising hard on a bike, taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, or simply moving through your apartment to water all of your plants, it’ll get your computation skills flowing. No matter what job you’re in, ingenuity is a part of it. If you’re in Human Resources at a large company, you have to figure out who will be the best person for the job, how to get those two employees to stop fighting, or which health insurance plan will fit all your employees’ needs. You need to have some original ideas to make things happen. If you work in construction, sales, or the medical field — BAM! — ingenuity is needed. 

So, let’s scratch our New Year’s resolution to “exercise more” and just say this year, we’re gonna MOVE

Night Sky Night Sky