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A few minutes of exercise can help decrease quarantine stress

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By Zsarlene B. Chua
Reporter

MUCH of Luzon has been under community quarantine for a month now and since everyone was thrust into a situation where staying at home is paramount in order to beat the virus, adjusting to living within the four walls of their homes is a challenge not only for physical fitness but also mental health. Fitness educators and trainers are suggesting that the act of moving, whether doing chores or simple workouts, for a few minutes can do wonders to help the quarantine pass easier.

“In terms of feeling less stress, I think movement on its own just makes your body… release hormones that make you feel good. So once your body moves, it feels productive, you automatically get a lightened spirit,” Rica Rodriguez, co-founder and master trainer at Dynamic Duo, Inc., told BusinessWorld in an online interview on April 6.

Dynamic Duo is a company that trains fitness trainers and was founded by Ms. Rodriguez and Diane Masinsin. Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Masinsin are in the early weeks of quarantine in Hanoi, Vietnam, and in Dubai, United Arab Emirates respectively.

In the past few weeks since much of the world has ordered to undertake some form of social distancing and quarantines, Dinah Salonga, managing director of yoga studio Yoga Plus, noted that this “[broke] down our compartmentalized life and roles and suddenly merged them into one!”

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“Before we could be a corporate executive from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., a wife and/or mother when we get home. Now we have to work and take care of our kids at the same time!” Ms. Salonga told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview on April 8.

“It is driving a lot of people crazy! It is important that we keep our minds focused so we can work when we need to… Physical activity is important to keep us healthy and strengthen our immunity. Movement is also a good way to exercise our brain and take our mind off our worries and cares for a few minutes a day,” she added.

For some, keeping focused means following a strict routine every day, but the women behind both Dynamic Duo and Yoga Plus noted that keeping a routine should only be done if a person functions better by sticking to a routine.

“Instead of an actual routine, create a checklist that can change day by day like one day you’re allowed to do this, and the next day you do something else… because if you put it on a routine it’s can be stressful if you miss an activity in your routine,” Ms. Masinsin said, before adding that making a checklist makes adjustments, depending on time and how one is feeling at a particular moment, easier.

But for those who want to be more active even after quarantine ends, setting a specific time each day to work out or meditate can help one keep the behavior long-term.

“I believe that each person has his/her own way of keeping balance. If you are a person who works best with an established routine, then it is something you also need to be able to do while working from home. Routine helps when we are trying to create a new pattern of behavior. An example could be a physical workout or a meditation practice. Doing it at the same time during the day will help in building a new habit,” Ms. Salonga said.

For those who live a more sedentary lifestyle, Ms. Masinsin noted that working or moving even just for five minutes a day can do wonders for one’s mental health.

“It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes every day. A little movement is better than none… especially for people who haven’t moved before or haven’t been in a strict exercise regimen, you want to make them see that it’s not actually hard to start,” said Ms. Rodriguez.

Yoga, for Ms. Salonga, is something she recommends people to do because she thinks it’s the “best movement practice you can do at home.”

“You can do it with just a blanket or carpet if you don’t have a mat. You can even just use the chair,” she said, and 15 minutes, preferably every day, can do “wonders for your body and for your mental and emotional state.”

The trainers also suggested that being stuck at home doesn’t mean that you have to eat unhealthy food if you have the option to eat healthier food.

“Practice healthy snacking, popping your own popcorn is a good healthy snack,” Ms. Rodriguez said. Ms. Salonga said to eat more whole foods than processed foods if it’s available.

“If they can still get fresh produce (vegetables, fruits, beans, grains), this is still the best. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir will help boost the immune system,” she explained.

QUARANTINE CHANGING THE FITNESS INDUSTRY
Most gyms and fitness centers have been closed during quarantine so many fitness studios and trainers have taken to live streaming their classes for clients and for those who are looking for someone to guide them through a workout session. This has changed the way trainers look at the industry.

“At first it was kind of weird because you’re used to talking to people and getting instant feedback and smelling the room, and now you’re not even seeing people’s reaction unless I look at the chat box,” Ms. Rodriguez said.

Ms. Rodriguez conducts livestream workout sessions every Wednesday and Saturday at 8 p.m. on the Dynamic Duo-Rica & Divine Facebook page.

And it’s not just them as Yoga Plus also conducts virtual yoga classes regularly via the YogaPlus Facebook page. Their last class before Holy Week was on April 8 and classes will resume after Holy Week.

“Everyone’s doing a great job trying to keep people moving in their homes and [we’re] seeing more neophytes joining the sessions,” Ms. Rodriguez said.

“It changed how people are looking at exercise because now they can do the workouts in the safety of their homes if they want to,” she added.

Dynamic Duo has also seen people from other countries joining their online workouts.

“That just means that everyone’s at home and looking for something to do, so maybe if this didn’t happen, those without gym memberships wouldn’t be able to do this, So it opened the market a lot more… it made working out more accessible,” Ms. Rodriguez said.

With the proliferation of online workouts, she mused that “even gym and fitness facilities would have a different way of approaching the market now.”

Dynamic Duo and Yoga Plus’ previous workouts can be accessed via their Facebook pages at facebook.com/pg/dynamicduoricadivine and https://www.facebook.com/yogaplusph/.

Online fitness classes can go beyond yoga. Here are some other resources for online fitness that include ballet and boxing.

Ballet may be graceful, but it also makes for a tough workout. The New York City Public Ballet released a number of fitness videos back in 2006 by PALM, and they are still available on YouTube at PALM’s channel (youtu.be/RSTQz5a_tDI). And for a touch of NYC glamor, they’re introduced by New Yorker Sarah Jessica Parker. The videos feature the ballet company’s daily fitness routine, meant to enhance muscle tone, flexibility, and improve one’s posture. They are narrated by the soothing voice of their former Ballet Master, Peter Martins. A disclaimer at the beginning of the workout notess that it’s designed for people who are in good health, and not intended as a substitute for qualified medical counselling. Volume 1 (there are two volumes) lasts a little over an hour. It’s deceptively simple, beginning with a light warmup that just has you moving your body airily and gracefully, like miming ballet. It then evolves into floor barre exercises and into pliés and dégagés, accompanied by classical music. The light soothing music ignores your gasps and urges you to do the workouts as gracefully as possible, even if your face has already gone red. After the workout, you’re left catching your breath, and with renewed respect for the work and gifts of a dancer.

A bit closer to home, Ballet Manila has released a series of videos called “Ballet Minute with Lisa Macuja” (it is now on Episode 12) in which the ballet company’s artistic director discusses and demonstrates exercises focusing on balance, stability, how to hold the neck, etc. These classes are more for intermediate and advanced students. But there is also a Ballet for Fitness video that is focused on children and adults who are beginners. The 30-minute class, and the Ballet Minute videos can be found at the Ballet Manila Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the Philippine arm of Spartan obstacle races, known for its intense outdoor activities, is releasing virtual workouts every day on its official instagram page (@spartanraceph), led by its own ambassadors. The schedule is usually announced the day before. A recent virtual workout involved burpees, squats, kicks, and tucks.

Finally, the BGC boxing gym Flyweight Boxing is also offering virtual workouts on its Instagram page (@flyweight.ph), from upper and lower body conditioning to dynamic stretching. They’re also offered on Instagram Live, but the workout instructions and some videos are also saved to the timeline. — with Joseph L. Garcia

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