Staying Active When Your Gym is Closed

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By News Team on March 20, 2020

Throughout our region and across the country, businesses and organizations are making the difficult decision to temporarily close to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.

In the interest of public health and the well-being of members and staff, Carilion Wellness made the same necessary decision March 18 and closed its facilities until further notice.

competitive cyclist carrying his bike on cyclocross course
“It’s easy to push our fitness goals aside now,” says first-time triathlete Nicholas Buehring, “but it’s crucial that we all help each other get outside and keep moving.” Photo by Jared Ladia Photography.

While we all have many concerns and questions about the virus and the illness it can cause, there is one thing we know for sure: Exercise is good for both body and mind, especially during challenging times.

Some people, such as those who use mobile apps to set personal goals and track their progress, may need no more encouragement to find creative ways to stay active. But even elite athletes such as graphic designer Nicholas Buehring, who is training for the Carilion Clinic IRONMAN 70.3 Virginia’s Blue Ridge, find it challenging.

“I’ve been using it as an excuse lately to not go for bike rides or runs,” he said. “But I still keep pushing myself to go out, and every time I do, I feel better—more energized, more relaxed and in a better state of mind.”

A Prescription for Exercise

As part of Carilion Clinic, Carilion Wellness has an additional responsibility for promoting health and fitness in our communities.

Patrick Dunham, clinical programs manager at Carilion Wellness, works with Carilion Clinic patients who have “medical memberships” that use exercise for:

  • General fitness and minor health conditions (Fit Rx)
  • Recovery from surgery, after physical therapy, and chronic conditions (Recovery Rx)
  • Managing chronic conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and cancer (Take Control Rx)
  • Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation

"When someone has a chronic or progressive disease, it can be a constant battle to maintain general physical fitness," he says. "While it is important for everyone to stay active while distancing from others, it is especially necessary for the high-risk population to maintain physical fitness. Unfortunately, those with chronic conditions seem to decline faster than the general public when they take extended, sedentary breaks from exercise."

Maintaining a schedule of frequent, structured exercise will help people maintain their physical capabilities during this period of isolation—and make it easier to return to their normal routine afterward. And that's just the physical benefits.
"In addition to supporting the immune system, exercise can reduce stress and help alleviate the feeling of cabin fever," says Patrick. "It is rare that anyone has time to decompress. This period of social distancing can really be an opportunity to reflect, and put pen to paper, and write down some daily, weekly and long-term physical fitness goals."

Filling Our Own Prescriptions

Even without the support of a personal trainer, we can all take steps (10,000 a day!) to remain active while protecting ourselves and others from exposure. And now that the days are longer and the temperatures are higher, it's easy to get active outside.

senior man using smartphone on trail with senior woman stretching in background
Carilion Wellness's Patrick Dunham calls outdoor recreation "the original form of social distancing." Be sure to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others, and stay home altogether if you are sick.

"Outdoor recreation may be the original form of social distancing," Patrick points out. "While camping at a populated campsite would not be recommended, day hikes could be a great option to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, while keeping yourself and others safe from contact."

It’s springtime, so put on some sunscreen and get your hands dirty. Gardening provides physical, mental and social benefits, and looking forward to sharing our summer bounty with neighbors and friends provides a sense of purpose and hope.

Our region has countless trails, greenways and sidewalks that make walking pleasant and accessible for people of all abilities and fitness levels. Make a point to get outside and walk for 15 to 30 minutes each day. You can start right at your doorstep or explore new neighborhoods to keep it interesting.

Working out “Together”
Staying accountable is not as easy when you can’t carpool to spin class with your workout buddy. But virtual accountability is easy with fitness apps and through supporting each other with social messaging, group texts and Skype. These tools can help everyone feel more connected—and more motivated.

“It’s easy to push our fitness goals aside now,” said Buehring, “but it’s crucial that we all help each other get outside and keep moving.”

And don’t forget to take care of yourself in other ways to keep your immune system strong:

Carilion Clinic message saying wash your hands and stay home when you are sick

Visit for up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19. Call our Community Hotline for general questions about symptoms, resources, guidelines and more

COVID-19 Community Hotline

Monday - Friday, 8 a.m - 5 p.m.

Do not call the Community Hotline to make appointments, or to request testing or test results. For information about COVID-19 and your personal health, talk with your primary care provider