COVID-19 pandemic changes how people exercise

By Leo Melancon
April 10, 2020

With most gyms and exercise studios closed due to coronavirus, people are exercising at home to keep in good shape and in good spirits. In the process, they have found a surprising variety of ways to exercise, even without a gym’s machines and equipment.

Experts agree that exercise is important during self-isolation, to stay mentally and physically healthy.  When you are cooped up with a stockpile of food and a mountain of anxiety about when this will all be over, it is tempting to eat away the stress.  Exercise provides a healthier alternative, but it does require some creativity. For those used to gym workouts, it can be challenging to find a new routine without the machines they usually use.

Student athletes’ training is very gym-based, so it is a big adjustment working out at home.  Giovanna Carotenuto is on the women’s basketball team at Susquehanna University, but now finds herself at home, missing team workouts.

“I was able to use the weight room at school, go to my strength coach or shooting coach to work out,” Carotenuto, a freshman majoring in advertising and public relations, said. “My exercise routine has changed a lot since I don’t have access to a lot of equipment at my house. I use an elliptical at home, go on a run in my neighborhood, or do body weight workouts.”

“I utilized Cabrini’s gym on campus five days a week with a strength-training program,” Sara Farina, student accessibility

Sara Farina’s at-home workout equipment. Photos provided by Sara Farina.

specialist in the Disability Resources Center, said.  “The first two weeks were tough not doing it. I have the luxury of having some barbells at home, a fitness ball, an elliptical and a treadmill, so I’ve transitioned to a home strength training program.”

Most students have less space and equipment than Farina enjoys, however.

“I usually hit the gym every other day and work on legs, upper body, and cardio,” said Connor Shohoney, University of Wisconsin sophomore majoring in journalism, advertising and media studies. “I don’t have a lot of space nor the equipment for proper workouts, so it’s tough.  Now my workout is a lot more relaxed: lighter weights and just walking outside.”

Outdoor exercise is especially popular as a remedy for the feelings of confinement many are experiencing–as long as it can be done solo, at a distance of at least six feet from others.

“I go outside and hike two times a week and go on walks,” Carol Geary, Virginia Tech graduate student majoring in engineering education, said. “Going outside for fresh air and exercise has been really nice for my mental health, because getting some dopamine in the brain helps lift my mood.”

For those who can’t exercise outdoors, social media offers some unusual alternatives.

Megha Vadehra, sophomore at Stevens Institute of Technology, has been keeping up with her tap-dancing in her basement at home. Photo provided by Megha Vadehra.

“I tap dance a lot in my basement,” said Megha Vadehra, sophomore chemical engineering major at Stevens Institute of Technology.  “My friend teaches personal training classes on Instagram and a lot of dancers are doing video lessons.”

There are a multitude of free and low cost exercise apps available, as well as free videos on Amazon Prime and YouTube. Some gyms and yoga studios are streaming classes while their facilities are closed, for people who have already purchased a membership. There are a lot of exercise options on line, if you just look.

“I have used the internet to find new exercises so I don’t get bored of doing the same ones!” Carotenuto said.

Whatever routine you choose, it is important to make sure it promotes mental as well as physical health.

“The sites I follow are very empowering in regards to staying physically active and giving yourself forgiveness and permission to not be sticking to your regular routine and be recognizing that this is a stressful time, therefore our routines and our diets are changing,” Farina said. “It’s helped me get back into some semblance of normalcy overall. I physically just feel better . . .and it stops me from grazing too much or watching too much TV.”

Those working or studying from home study with anxiety, boredom, and finding the motivation to exercise. For them, checking out new routines can be the solution.  But for those who are “essential” workers who still have to go out to work and risk contagion, exercise takes on a different significance.


Home exercise tips provided by Anna Goldfarb of the New York Times and Dr. Melina Jampolis of CNN.

Aimee Melancon, a senior studying kinesiology at the University of Kentucky, used to run three to fours times a week, as well as do yoga and high intensity interval training (HIIT) once a week. These days, she runs for exercise, when she can find the time  and energy. Melancon is a patient clerical assistant working three to four 12-hour shifts plus an additional 8-hour shift each week. 

“Working in the ICU where all the COVID patients are being isolated, the atmosphere becomes very bleak very quickly.  It is very easy to become depressed,” Melancon said. “Running causes me to focus on very few things: my breathing, what are my feet/ankles doing so I don’t roll them, what is the beat of the music.  By focusing on these things, I am able to be in the now, in the present.”

Whether you are an athlete whose season has been canceled, an adult working from home, a student struggling to finish the semester, an exercise fanatic, or an essential worker just trying to stay sane, exercise can help get you through this pandemic.

“Exercising during this time is honestly the best way to try to get yourself out of a slump and somewhat back to normalcy” Melancon said.  “I think it gives you something else to work towards, something else to focus on, instead of all the negativity that is occurring.”

Leo Melancon

1 thought on “COVID-19 pandemic changes how people exercise”

  1. Lynne Richardson

    Thanks for the interesting and motivating article, Leo. Getting motivated to exercise during this time of isolation can be challenging, but hearing how other people are doing it helps–especially someone as busy as Aimee Melancon!

Comments are closed.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap