Fitness and Productivity During The Pandemic: What You Should Know

It is important to indulge in fitness routines as per your own comfort level.

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Flex 'em
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Make a concerted effort to move away from comparisons and constant observation of what others may be doing.
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Even though we are beginning to step out more than we were a few weeks ago, life continues to be confined primarily indoors and to the physical space of our own houses.

Now, it is no secret that along with the coronavirus pandemic, there has been another accompanying pandemic - one of ‘at-home’ workout videos and routines, as well as lofty ambitions about our productivity. While it is important to keep ourselves moving to avoid emotional and physical stagnation, the conversation around body positivity and mental health gains a greater significance here.

Commenting on the same, Dr Raj Kumar Srivastava, Senior Consultant and Head, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, says, “One should not take the pressure to be productive all day. If you are being productive, it is better, yes, but even if you are not, it's alright. The most crucial thing during this pandemic is to keep yourself happy whether you are productive or not.”

Dr Kamna Chhibber, Head of Department, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, adds that it is important to analyse and decide what feels good to you, and to consciously steer clear of comparisons.

“It is important to indulge in fitness as per your own comfort level. Determine what you enjoy, what creates a feeling of goodness for you as an individual and how much you would like to do it. Make a concerted effort to move away from comparisons and constant observation of what others may be doing.”
Dr Kamna Chhibber

How Much Self-Care is Too Much Self-Care?

Experts agree that while it is important not to pressurise yourself as you cope with lockdown fatigue and emotional strains of a world battling a pandemic, it is also important to put in a little effort towards your well-being, both physical and mental.

“It is always important to move towards balance. Today the lazing and indulgence may feel good, but the same aspect can create discomfort after a few days. So, it’s important to also keep the long term in mind and maintain some sort of healthy routine to maintain fitness and well-being,” says Dr Chhibber.

Dr Srivastava agrees with this line of thought and he adds:

“I agree that eating and lazing around upto some extent is very much needed since this lockdown has helped people to get out of their busy schedules, introspect, and give more time to themselves as well as to their families. But too much of anything is also not good. Being too lazy and over-eating during this pandemic, if continued for long, will result in bad physical and mental health for the person.”
Dr Srivastava

Both experts suggest striving for some sort of balance, while accepting that not all days will be the same. There will be both good and bad, but the idea is to not stop trying. They further draw attention to the benefits of some exercise to help you stay afloat.

Remember To Take A Break, You Deserve It

In the same vein, Dr Chhibber emphasises the importance of taking breaks, and that it is perfectly alright to do so. “Taking a day or a few days off is good for everyone to recoup and re-energize themselves. It allows for the creation of the right balance that enhances physical health and mental well-being. Over-doing and excessive pressurising of the self can potentially lead to the development of significant fatigue and impede coping and resilience. Thus, taking breaks is extremely important,” she says.

It is also important to remember that you are exercising not to conform to any conventional beauty standards or to fit into a particular size, but simply to keep yourself happy and fit. Exercise and any work on the body and mind should come from a place of love and affection, and not hate or displeasure.

“During this pandemic, everyone is very stressed due to not being able to follow the so-called ‘normal routine’, while exercising stimulates endorphin (feel-good hormone) levels which directly or indirectly maintains the physical and mental well-being. Thus, exercise should be a stress buster rather than a stress inducer. These routines depend on a person's need. Do not make them a compulsory activity, but do make them a necessary activity of your life,” says Dr Srivastava.

A Sense of Control and Balance

While you navigate the realms of health and well-being and look for a sense of control when everything else seems to be going awry, remember the importance of stepping back and taking a deep breath. This will further allow you to help achieve some sort of balance in your life, explains Ms Chhibber.

“A need for control is one aspect, but there is also the apprehension about the future and the desire to ensure least damage and loss, as well as wanting to evade difficult thoughts and feelings when you're alone at home. Being productive, or at least trying to be so in the form of exercise or anything else, allows one to remove anxious or worrying thoughts and feel good about the fact that one is doing something and is focusing on the things that can be done by their own selves,” she adds.

Lastly, if you do find yourselves overwhelmed, the expert has another piece of advice for you.

“Take a step back and ask if what you are doing and how much you are doing is necessarily required. If not, and you are doing it to avoid thoughts and feelings, then remind yourself to stop. Make a decision to create a balance between the work you are doing and the activities you enjoy, which can also help you unwind. Make sure you aren’t doing things because others around you are doing them a certain way.”
Dr Kamna Chhibber

The pandemic is the single most unprecedented experience for almost all of us, and thus, our previous understanding of what is alright or is considered ‘normal’ has dissolved into uncertainty. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our bit towards our physical and mental health. The only thing to remember here is that the desire to work on ourselves should only stem from a positive place, and not become an attempt to conform or give in to the pressures of our peers, social media, or an imagined sense of the ideal body or perfection.

(Rosheena Zehra is a published author and media professional. You can find out more about her work here.)

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