During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers’ schedules have become more hectic than ever. Not only are they teaching classes—either virtually, in person, or a combination of the two—but many also are juggling family responsibilities and participating in their own children’s schooling. With so much going on in their lives, it can be difficult to set aside time for regular physical exercise—and yet it’s important to do so.
Along with a nutritious diet and sufficient sleep, exercise should be part of your daily routine. For teachers, exercise can be especially beneficial. Teachers who exercise regularly put themselves in a better position to remain fit, alert, and up to the physical demands of their profession.
What’s more, exercise has a positive effect on your mental health and acuity, which in turn will heighten your teaching effectiveness. Consider these facts:
- Regular physical activity is associated with increased production of the neurochemical BDNF, which supports the production of new neurons and synapses in your brain.
- Exercise increases mass in areas of the brain involved in executive function, memory, and spatial processing.
- The cardiovascular health effects of exercise increase the growth of blood vessels that improve oxygen flow to the brain.
- Regular workouts help relieve stress, alleviate symptoms of depression, and enhance a positive outlook.
There are various types of exercise that will build your stamina for energetic teaching. You can do something as simple as taking a brisk walk, but other activities that have benefits are a daily run, bike ride, or gym workout.
Of course, it is the era of COVID-19, so safety considerations need to be kept in mind. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides some excellent ideas for how to be physically active while social distancing—some of which you can also use with your students in virtual or in-person classrooms. For instance, you can lead your students in chair exercises and stretches or even set aside time to “dance” in place.
The CDC recommend at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, and at least twice-weekly muscle-strengthening activities that work out all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
Also be sure to incorporate some strength training in your exercise regimen. Strength training has been shown to improve your physical fitness and also is positively correlated to better cognitive functioning and memory in older adults. Yoga, weight lifting, working with resistance bands or equipment, push-ups, and chores that involve heavy lifting, digging, or shoveling are effective muscle-strengthening activities.
Among the many benefits of exercise is that it will help you get a good night’s sleep. In a study shared by the National Sleep Foundation, participants who worked out at least 150 minutes weekly reported 65 percent better sleep quality than those who did not exercise regularly.
Make It Fun
For those who hate the idea of exercise, we recommend that you make it fun. Try a Zumba class over Zoom. Play an active game with your children. Or take a walk in nature. Enjoying the scenery will help improve your mood—and getting away from it all is extremely compatible with social distancing.
Still not sure you have the time for exercise? Become more physically fit by incorporating a few simple activities into your day. A few examples: Take the stairs instead of an elevator. Park your car on the far end of the parking lot. Stretch or do sit-ups while watching TV.
Increasing physical fitness habits can lead to a significant change in your health and your outlook. Make a plan to add exercise to your daily routine today!