Educating the mind, body, and spirit are central to the mission of Bellarmine University—a noble and worthy goal aimed at improving the human condition of our community members and beyond.
As a recently recognized gold-level Exercise Is Medicine – On Campus institution, we fully understand and appreciate that purposeful and sustained engagement in physical activity can simultaneously nurture each of these intended outcomes, as
the benefits associated with this health-related behavior are numerous and well-documented.
Engaging in a physically active lifestyle is significantly associated with or directly influences the overall health of one’s mind (e.g., improvements in academic performance, heightened cognitive function, better mental health, etc.), body
(e.g., reduced risk of non-communicable diseases, weight management, greater physical function and skill-related performance, etc.) and spirit (e.g., positive affect and mood, enhanced perceptions of self-worth, fostering social connectedness
and a sense of belonging, etc.), each of which contributes to the development and subsequent well-being of the whole person.
Successfully adopting and, more important, adhering to a physically active lifestyle, or any health-related behavior for that matter (e.g., eating a nutritious and balanced diet, adequate sleep hygiene, stress management, etc.), can be a major challenge
for many people, however, particularly during times of unrest and uncertainty.
"Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save and preserve it." – Plato
As we continue to experience the profound impact that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has on the world around us, it is perhaps more important than ever to develop and maintain some sort of daily routine, especially in our attempt to avoid physical inactivity
and minimize engagement in discretionary sedentary behaviors. Taking the initiative to lead a physically active lifestyle can provide us with some sense of normalcy, whether that’s achieved by adhering to a specific exercise regimen at home,
working in our yards and gardens, or simply going out for a regularly scheduled (or impromptu) walk or bike ride in our neighborhoods or nearby parks. Successful participation in physical activity can provide people across the lifespan with much-needed
structure during these bizarre and potentially anxiety-inducing times, along with improved perceptions of personal control and achievement.
However, it is still of considerable importance for everyone to stay up-to-date and compliant with the health and safety recommendations put forth by local
agencies to minimize both our exposure to and the spread of the novel coronavirus
within and surrounding our communities. The following guidelines, which have been adapted from America Walks
, the American College of Sports Medicine
, the National Recreation and Park Association
, and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
, should be taken
into strong consideration when engaging in physical activity outdoors, which, despite the various “stay-at-home” orders that have administered across the country, is still very much encouraged and supported by public health officials,
health-related advocacy groups, and the healthcare industry at large:
- Do not leave your place of residence if exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19;
- Continue to practice physical distancing (i.e., at least 6 feet apart from others), but do not fear or avoid social interaction with family and friends, neighbors and acquaintances, or any other potential passerby; in other words, feel free to smile,
wave and exchange pleasantries—all from an adequate distance, of course. If the minimum physical distancing recommendation cannot be sufficiently achieved while outdoors, consider alternative routes, locations, or times (i.e., lesser-known areas
or off-peak usage times for outdoor recreation);
- Check for park and trail closures, including amenities (e.g., restrooms, playgrounds, courts, etc.), before leaving your home to avoid unnecessary travel or disappointment;
- Do not gather in groups or meet up with others to engage team-based and/or contact sports;
- Maintain proper hygienic countermeasures, such as regularly (and properly) washing your hands, avoiding hand-to-face contact and covering coughs or sneezes in your upper sleeve or elbow;
- Strongly consider using face masks or covers when leaving your home to protect both yourself and others from exposure to or transmission of the virus while being physically active;
- Give a vocal warning of your presence if approaching others from behind to safely pass. If you are being approached, simply move aside for a moment to accommodate other users of open and public spaces. If someone is approaching you from the opposite direction,
both parties should move to the right of the walkway or used space to ensure safe passing; using hand signals to communicate your intended direction to those within your vicinity is an easy and helpful way to share public spaces;
- Beware of road conditions and use, especially speeding and distracted drivers;
- Provide vulnerable users (i.e., children, older adults, and the functionally limited or disabled) with the right of way; and
- Take advantage of open streets, where available, for greater comfort, safety and physical distancing; if options are limited, feel free to contact elected officials to request more space where people can get out and stay physically active.
Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing mandatory closures of certain businesses, cancellations of upcoming group-based events, and limited access to various community-based resources, many people have begun to experience substantial decreases
in their overall levels of both intentional (e.g., going to the gym) and incidental (e.g., moving around school or the workplace) physical activity, which is likely to have a negative effect on their mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, it is paramount
that we, as a society, do our best to encourage and promote opportunities for continued and safe engagement in this most potent and essential of health-related behaviors.
Get active. Stay safe. Be healthy.
Written by Thomas Wójcicki, Ph.D., an associate professor of Exercise Science in the School of Movement & Rehabilitation in Bellarmine University’s College of Health Professions. Photo provided by kinkate at StockSnap.