Hacking Isolation: Move It! in Loja Ecuador

Faced with an indefinite period of isolation during Ecuador’s ongoing national health emergency, we all find staying home a challenge. Fortunately, we have excellent resources for coping at our disposal: ourselves. In our first ‘Hacking Isolation’ blog post we talked about a personal resource we all have - our own minds. Changing our mindset with meditation, being thankful, and awareness of human solidarity in the current adversity can all make coping with these extraordinary times a little easier. All of these strategies are backed with scientific data as being effective.

The effect of exercise on mood is also well accepted and scientifically documented. Even a short interlude of mild exercise can elicit positive brain chemicals that will help smooth over anxiety and ‘the blues.’ If you haven’t worked regular exercise into your isolation routine, there is no better time to start than now. Having a daily routine while in isolation is also beneficial, so daily exercise in your ‘schedule’ of activities will be a ‘win-win.’

Coincidentally, scientific research prior to the current global health emergency shows that cardio exercise in particular can help protect everyone from the most serious effects of the virus, an  auto-immune response known as ARDS or acute respiratory distress syndrome. A review by Zhen Yan, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, showed that medical research findings "strongly support" the possibility that exercise can prevent, or at least reduce, the severity of ARDS, which affects between 3% and 17% of all patients with COVID-19.

Another bit of good news is that senior citizens need only mild cardio exercise to have a positive benefit. Cardio exercise consists of physical movement that raises your heart rate. No additional or fancy equipment is required, just a little space to get moving. Many people have a pulse-oxygen monitor to track their heart rate, but you can also do it the old fashioned way with a clock or watch. Watch the second-hand for six seconds while you count your heartbeats with your finger on your pulse. Multiply by ‘10’ and you have your heart rate. Do that for your resting heart rate and again after you workout.

Seniors should start off very slowly - not raising their heart rate too quickly and not doing any large or rapid movements that might cause injury. A chart of recommended rates is included below. Be sure to have an adequate stretch before you start with a couple minutes of warm up and cool down at the beginning and end of your  cardio routine. If you are just starting out, you might consider breaking your sessions up into 10-minute sessions throughout the day. Two or three sessions a day, several times a week should help with mood and offer the important pulmonary protection. Many dance and cardio routines for seniors are available for free on youtube. Or invent one of your own!

Younger people may have goals beyond just raising their heart rates and lung capacity. For those who also want to use isolation to perfect their ‘six-pack,’ there are excellent programs, also on Youtube, at no cost which require little or no additional equipment. If any equipment is required, then it can be improvised. Popular workouts with excellent physical results include “Crossfit” training, Taekwondo and other Asian martial arts, and boxing. Tell us about your exercise routine during the current lockdown. Leave us a comment.


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