Staying fit: keep your body prepared to fight


YMCA members work on stretching

Staying fit means your body’s better equipped to fight illness in general," says Becky Neal, Health and Wellness Director at the Fry Family YMCA in Naperville. 

As 2021 draws near and New Year’s resolutions stay top-of-mind, experts from the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago have some tips on how to maintain an active lifestyle while staying protected from COVID-19. 

The rhythms, layout, and structure of out-of-home workouts have changed substantially since before the pandemic, Neal notes. From closed locker rooms to using exercise equipment with a mask on, acclimating to fitness’s “new normal” requires some adjustment and advance preparation. She also emphasizes the importance of easing into physical activity.

“A mask adds a whole other dimension to working out,” said Neal. “It’s really important to listen to your body. Walking is okay. Slowing down is okay. Interval training’s great. Less resistance can be good. The health and wellness industry often instills the mentality of really pushing yourself—and you certainly can, in this new context—but it’s fine, important even, to take that step back so you don’t hurt or exhaust yourself.”

Neal also encourages individuals to try out different types of masks and face shields to figure out which provides adequate protection while allowing for cardiovascular or aerobic activity. When working and teaching at the Fry Family YMCA, Neal prefers wearing a plastic face shield, as it creates space between mouth and barrier while providing full coverage of breath and droplets. While in-person fitness classes at the Y are currently suspended due to Tier 3 mitigations, Neal notes that the Y’s fitness staff are available to help with exercise modifications in an open gym setting.

Above all, Neal remarks, working out during a pandemic requires a change in mindset—one that mirrors COVID-19 adjustments already commonplace in other areas of life.

“We have to shift gears all the time,” said Neal. “As a community and as a society, we’re getting better at shifting gears to keep ourselves safe—exercise is no different.”

For those interested in joining the Y of Metro Chicago, the Y is currently offering a limited-time, $0 joiner fee. To sign up or for more information, visit their website, contact your local Y center or call Member Services at 773-905-5115 (Mon-Fri: 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.).

Photo source: YMCA



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