How We Exercise During a Pandemic

Welcome. In her latest “Phys Ed” column, Gretchen Reynolds wrote of exercise habits during the…

How We Exercise During a Pandemic

Welcome. In her latest “Phys Ed” column, Gretchen Reynolds wrote of exercise habits during the pandemic. She looked at several recent studies and concluded that our exercise patterns have indeed been disrupted, but precisely how differs from one study to the next — some show us moving more, some less. The results of a new study out of the United Kingdom showed that most of us have been less physically active in quarantine, and a large percentage of those who’ve been exercising as much or more than before are older than 65. (The findings have not yet been peer reviewed.)

My own unscientific study of my activity levels evidences a marked lack of incidental exercise (no commute, no appointments during lunch, no dinners out or other engagements requiring negotiation of multiple flights of subway stairs). I’ve become aware of the way my hips begin to ache after a couple hours of sitting, how stretching, once a chore performed to avoid injury before or after a jog, is now essential for staving off everyday soreness. Exercising has become not just a means of staying healthy, but a weak substitute for travel: I may not be able to leave town, but I can ride my bike to the pier and watch the sun set by the Statue of Liberty. I can walk down the hill to the produce stand, nodding at neighbors I encounter on the way down, noticing how everyone seems to have a new dog on the way back up.

It’s an extraordinary time to be the occupant of a human body, isn’t it? We’re considering the body’s limits, its strength and vulnerabilities, nearly all the time. We’re measuring the distance between our bodies and others’, acclimating to breathing through layers of paper or cloth. The necessity of physically being somewhere — whether at work, school, the bookstore, the bar — has been eliminated in favor of virtual congress.

“So where is there but the body to live?” asks Bin Ramke in his poem “Something to Say.” I think about this line a lot. Many of us are occupied lately with protecting our bodies, with protecting and nurturing the bodies of those we love. We’re sorting out how we negotiate the space around us safely. Focusing on how many steps we take or pounds we lift is one way of staying aware of and comfortable in the physical world. It’s one way of residing in a body, of spreading out, of making ourselves at home.

How has your physical activity changed during the pandemic? Are you moving less? More? How has your exercise regimen been adapted? What have you noticed? Write to us: [email protected] and include your name, age and hometown. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. As always, more suggestions for leading a full life at home or near it appear below. See you on Friday.

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