How to Exercise Safely During COVID-19

By: Tara Iyer, MD • Posted on November 23, 2020

How to Exercise Safely During COVID-19

Exercise in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus has led to drastic changes in how our society functions. In addition to the direct impact of contracting the virus, health professionals have become increasingly concerned about the indirect health effects the virus has had on the world’s population. The social isolation experienced by many can lead to a myriad of mental health complications. Home confinement may also lead to sleep disturbances and increased food intake. With several public spaces, parks and gyms closing, many people are also engaging in significantly less physical activity than is recommended.

The Importance of Regular Exercise

We all know that exercise is good for our health.

  • Every time you visit the doctor, you are likely told about the importance of exercise in preventing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, dementia and many types of cancer.
  • You may not know that regular exercise has also been linked to increased longevity of life. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise has been associated with decreased mortality rates.
  • Regular exercise can also drastically improve the quality of our lives.
  • In addition to helping with weight management, exercise has also been shown to elevate mood, decrease anxiety, improve sleep, regulate digestion, boost energy, and improve sex life.

How Should I Exercise?

To achieve optimal results for your health, it is recommended to vary how you exercise. You should aim for 2.5 hours or 150 minutes of at least moderate aerobic exercise per week. You should also include strength or resistance training in your workout regimen at least 3 times per week.

How can I Exercise Without Increasing my Risk of Giving or Getting COVID-19?

Exercise outside

  • Walking, jogging, cycling or hiking outside
  • Spending at least 120 minutes a week outside in nature has been associated with good health and well being.
  • Forest therapy, also known as forest bathing, is a recognized practice of behavioral health treatment in several countries. This practice originated in Asia and involves solo or guided forest walks that have been associated with improved mental health.

Tips for Staying Safe When Exercising Outside

  1. Since these places have become more popular recently due to coronavirus, try visiting on off-peak hours such as early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds.
  2. Bring a mask in case of crowded areas.

At home exercise options

There are many exercise programs that offer full body workouts that include options for aerobic exercise, strength training and flexibility, including the following:

  1. Peloton
  2. Soul-cycle bike
  3. Mirror
  4. NordicTrack


  • These Live Class options give you the opportunity to workout with others from the safety of your own home.


  • These options can be expensive and there can be long wait times on delivery given their popularity.

Most cost-effective at home exercise options

There are an exhaustive amount of free workout classes and guidebooks on the internet, including:

  1. Apps
  2. Online guidebooks
  3. YouTube videos


  • Free!
  • An abundance of options: You are able to try multiple workouts and find what suits you


  • An abundance of options: It can be difficult to know where to start


  1. Consider starting with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at home circuit guide.
  2. If you prefer easy-to-use phone applications, the Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout is considered to be most congruent with ACSM recommendations.

While there are a myriad of options available, it is most important to find something you enjoy and can stick to!

Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!

- Tara Iyer, MD

Dr. Tara Iyer is a Women's Health Fellow in Cleveland Clinic's Specialized Women's Health Fellowship program. She is a graduate of the Saint Joseph Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program at SCL Health and has numerous student awards and publications.

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