Stress and anxiety have spiked as cases of coronavirus surge but there are ways to maintain a sense of control and calm in an uncontrollable, uncertain time – keep social distancing practices, get lots of rest and stay physically active, health experts advise. It’s the last part – staying active and getting enough exercise – that many people struggle with, especially with kids at home.
“Every day we have to make the decision to try to live healthfully and move, especially now,” says Iowa physical education teacher Erika Mundt. “We’re here to help. PE and health teachers can offer our students, parents and community a way to move and find some happiness and relief during this uncertain time.”
She knows how hard it can be when you have kids at home (she’s the mother of three young boys) but Mundt emphasizes that physical activity will help ease stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and boost immunity – all of which are needed to cope with the pandemic.
“Getting outside is my first suggestion,” says 2018 Shape America High School Teacher of the Year. “Being outside, seeing a bit of nature and getting fresh air is great for improving your mental state and motivating you to start moving.”
If you have kids, take a family walk or go for a hike. Make it a game – run for 30 seconds, walk for 30, and set a place or landmark in the distance to race to. Go for a bike ride and try to spot what neighbors have put in their windows, like teddy bears, hearts, and rainbows.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, take the activity inside. Mundt sent her high school PE students a body weight workout to follow three days a week and encourages them to use MyFitnessPal to log their movement and diet. Body weight workouts can be done by anyone of any age and are an easy way to keep muscles strong – pushups, situps, and squats are the basics, but there are lots of different exercises to try that work your muscles in your arms, back, legs and abdominals. Go for three sets of 15 and work up from there.
“Ultimately, we want our students and their families to understand the need to move daily,” she says. “We want to encourage healthy living as much as possible. There are many PE teachers sharing ways to move on twitter and other social media platforms.”
Challenge for students & teachers: share how you are staying fit during this time at home!! I’m doing piggy back squats a lot these days…mindfulness ideas are included! @ICWHSPrincipal @ICWestAthletics @PantherTimesTwo pic.twitter.com/vNjgGjwQyI
— Erika Mundt (@MundtPE) March 27, 2020
Blake White, an elementary PE teacher in Lake George, New York, said teachers can use live video to connect with students with programs like Zoom, which offers 40 minutes free – just enough time for a workout.
“When we did our live presentation last week,” White told the Post Star, “we set up an obstacle course and we challenged the kids to come up with their own obstacle course, videotape themselves running through it and send it back to us.
The PE teachers also asked the kids to think of an exercise for each letter of the alphabet or invent a new exercise
“It’s just to keep them active and in school mode,” White said. “The objective may change, but it’s good to know they’re engaged and active.”
Tips from PE teachers around the country to stay active:
- Set a goal of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day, 60 minutes for kids. Break time into blocks of 15 minutes four times a day or 30 minutes twice a day.
- Make it a routine at the same time in your daily schedule. If it’s a habit it will stick.
- Get outside whenever possible.
- Ask your kids to teach you a skill they learned in PE at school. Learn a new skill each day and make up new exercises to add.
- Take advantage of online resources like GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga – they’re fun and family friendly.
- Have a KidsBop dance party. Let older kids create playlists for a family dance party.
- Get out jump ropes, balls, raquets and other sports equipment and play a classic game or make up a new one.
- Tap into social media and ask for recommendations from friends and neighbors to stay active and de-stress.