Why you shouldn’t take up fitness challenges while self-isolating

It’s time to change our workout priorities during a global pandemic, says fitness mentor Ash Nath


From gym sharks to workout novices, many people have been inspired to take up fitness challenges in the last few weeks. As the common adage goes: ‘it takes 21 days to develop a habit’. However, strenuous exercise might be doing more harm than good in these troubling times.

“Many fitness geeks are only thinking of how to continue their workouts while adapting it to present circumstances,” says veteran marathon runner and fitness mentor Ashok ‘Ash’ Nath. “But we’re missing the bigger picture that immunity is kept higher through low to moderate exercise.”

Studies have shown that exercises of low to moderate intensity stimulate the immune system by improving the circulation of blood and immunity-building substances in the body. This provides a positive effect for days after the workout.

Conversely, high intensity exercise temporarily reduces immunity by releasing stress hormones like cortisol that run the risk of lowering defence systems for one to three days after the workout.

Last week, a viral video from France showed a 32-year-old man training for a marathon at home, running over 42 kilometres along his balcony. On Instagram, fitness challenges have friends tagging each other to complete certain exercises in under one minute and post it online.

Instead of blindly following trends, Ash advocates re-thinking our fitness goals while in self-isolation.

“Eat around 70 per cent of your daily calorie intake to detox and cleanse your system,” he suggests. “Go for simple, clean food with mindfulness towards boosting immunity. Spend time with family and rediscover positive habits like reading, cooking and painting. Only then should you assess the intensity, duration, and frequency of your exercise regime.”

According to the 57-year-old running evangelist, it’s better to switch to a relaxing, de-stressing exercise routine. While low to moderate intensity varies according to individual fitness levels, some common exercises to follow include yoga, easy jogging, and stationary cycling. Some people can opt for exercises on the stairs at home, innovating based on accessibility.

It’s time to change our workout priorities during a global pandemic, says fitness mentor Ash Nath

He recommends an hour of relaxed movement including exercises with body or weight resistance.

As people are mostly going to be indoors, he also suggests adding Vitamin D and zinc supplements to your diet.

“Ask yourself – ‘if something was to happen to someone dear to me, how would I wish I had spent these days?’ Live that life now, not following some 21-day fitness challenge that drains you of precious energy,” Ash says.

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