Last Wednesday my alarm played its familiar melody at 6am. I rolled out of bed and changed into workout clothes, pulled up my streaming site, and pressed play… just like normal. But, twenty or so minutes into this sweat session my thoughts made a shift to a deep level of gratitude. In this bizarre world of breaking news and numbers, I found myself grateful for a longstanding rhythm of exercise but not necessarily for all the same reasons as before. I don’t crush it with weights or do many crazy yoga poses. I’m just an ordinary woman who enjoys exercise and its many benefits of exercise. As I wade through this pandemic, my gratitude for those benefits is running deeper and deeper.

Whether you’ve had a solid pre-pandemic exercise routine or if you have never exercised before, the Coronavirus quarantine is shedding a whole new light on the gift of exercise. Maybe you are a gym-goer, a workout-streamer, a trail runner, a rocking chair reader or a front porch meditator. No matter where you are on the spectrum, I’m encouraging to find a healthy fitness focus amid this pandemic. It is within reach and will be well worth the effort! For the next few posts, I’ll share with you specific ways to re-purpose, rethink, and reintroduce quarantine style!

Today, let’s focus on re-purposing exercise. The obvious physical benefits exercise offers are muscle strength, cardiovascular health, bone density, lessening the chances of sickness, and better sleep. Those are all very important and helpful at all times. But, consistent exercise is also helps us achieve many other hidden benefits that are especially helpful and life-giving while living in pandemic (although true at all times).

Consider exercise as just the mechanism you need if your life to:

Change your mood – If this pandemic has done a number on your emotions, allowing sadness, anger, or weariness to set in unexpectedly, exercise is one way to fight back. None of those emotions are unwarranted right now, but we don’t want to allow them to get a solid grip on us around the clock. Engaging in some good exercise does good in you and for you. Exercise produces endorphins – a fancy word for “feel good” chemicals in the body. It’s these endorphins that cause a “runners high” even after a brisk 20 minute walk. What a healthy way to make the shift toward some positive emotions!

Feel accomplished – Does every day feel the same? Are you struggling with not having something to aim for? Exercise is a great way to gain a sense of accomplishment. Knowing you ran further today than yesterday, held a plank for twenty seconds longer, or simply said yes to a long walk outside is enough to warrant a pat on your own back. When we accomplish something that’s important to us, we gain confidence, hold our heads higher, and tackle what is ahead with more assertiveness. Even when you’re not leaving home, an extra dose of accomplishment goes a long way!

Gain extra energy – Are you lagging behind in the energy department, feeling a bit like everyday is Groundhog’s Day? Fitting in some fresh air fitness may actually help more than a nap for providing you with an energy boost and fighting off feelings of tiredness[https://www.exercise.com/learn/how-does-exercise-increase-energy/]. Morning exercise even has the added benefit of more energy to enjoy all day long!

Enhance your mind – In a time when so much has been stripped away, it is vital to keep our minds and bodies engaged in physical and mental work that matters and honors the Lord. Exercise is not just a physical workout; exercising our bodies is deeply connected to our minds. Even the very first steps of exercise…waking up, getting dressed, showing up…those decisions are made with our minds and then are carried out with our bodies. Exercise offers clarity and sharpening to our minds long after the sweating is done. In his book, Spark, Dr. John Ratey writes, “To keep our minds at peak performance, our bodies need to work hard.”

Lay off the snacks – Find yourself snacking a little more than usual or feel like your pantry door might need a lock? Studies show that aerobic exercise — such as running, cycling, and swimming — actually decreases appetite by changing the levels of hormones that drive our state of hunger[https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321660]. I also find that when I exercise, I am much more likely to make healthy food choices on the heels of my positive choice to commit to and complete my exercise. If pandemic snacking is nipping at your heels, fight that desire with the weapon of cardio!

Connect to the Lord – As the realities and echoes of pandemic spin around us, the MOST important thing we can do is keep our eyes on the Lord. Our response to the God who made us and redeemed us through the blood of Christ is to be “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Psalm 139:14) We praise and please God by taking good care of the bodies he has made through regular and challenging exercise.

As you consider implementing, continuing, or amping up your quarantine fitness focus, I encourage you to keep these things in mind! Broaden your thinking on all that the God-given gift of exercise can do for you! Now, go find a friend, stay six feet apart, and enjoy a long, brisk walk together!

Stay tuned…next time, we’ll focus on rethinking our exercise!

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