Of all the relationships that have been completely upended since the start of the pandemic, perhaps the most surprising is our relationship with our physical body. The The majority of of people who can do their work remotely have done so for the greater part of the past two years, and Americans’ average daily steps have fallen by 20 percent, according to the Observational Study From 2020. This was most likely due in part to less commuting to work (even for commuters, walking from the parking garage is more steps than getting out of bed to the kitchen table). This indulgence in physical activity has now led many of us to envision exercise not as a dreaded addition to our busy schedule, but as an integral part of our lives.
Emily Quikendall, an HR professional in Philadelphia, told me she wasn’t in the habit of exercising on purpose, because she struggled with the fact that, as a larger woman, exercise is often framed as a way to transform her body. She was taking lunchtime to walk around the sprawling campus for her job to split the day, but that was the extent of anything like physical exertion. Then she was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, and when her office life moved to a screen due to social distancing measures, she became more steady. This confluence of events gave her an opportunity to reflect How And the Why She wanted to exercise and what it could do for her health. For the first time in her life, Quikendall, 27, said she’s starting to think of intentional movement as central to her well-being, not weight loss.
The people I spoke to agreed that the pandemic had helped change their relationship to exercise, which previously felt like a chore. Not becoming a habit. Kuykendall started walking and taking yoga classes on Zoom, and the more she moved, the more she wanted to move. She tells me that she begins by asking herself:What do I want to do? Do I want to go for a walk? Dance to some music for five minutes? stretching? a nap? All of these things take care of my body and listen specifically to what it wants right now.” Marisa Goldberg, who consults with companies on the best ways to implement remote work for employees, says it’s a mental reframing that can lead to health benefits for all kinds of activities (not just the heart). Intense, for example) is one positive outcome of working from home.. In the pre-pandemic era, people may have seen that opportunities to fit exercise in the day were limited. But when work moved online for many – at the same time that gyms in the Across the country—the options widened for what we thought was exercise.For her part, Goldberg set a 30-minute timer each day to clean up, finish her to-do list, take a midday walk to clear her mind, or dance to music.
It was getting Americans to exercise in general A challenge for decades. “We have enough time, energy, or interest to achieve many goals at once,” David Conroy, professor of kinesiology and human development at Penn State University, told me. “And physical activity, because rewards are often so delayed, a lot of people don’t value those as much as some of the other outcomes that can occur if we pursue other goals.” So the shift in perception that leads people to incorporate small amounts of movement each day is still a win-win. Goldberg told me that if you view working from home as an opportunity to shape your day to your liking, it can actually lead to a mentally healthier physically.
in her book No Sweat: How Simple Motivational Science Can Get You Fitness for LifeGetting people to stay physically active is about “understanding how to choose and enjoy daily movement, of almost any kind, as long as it makes them feel good,” Michele Segar, a health coach and scientist who studies healthy behavior, writes. When people realize that daily walking makes them feel good and also feel good, they are more likely to choose to continue doing it and even look for more movement. Trying to stick to a gym routine that you dread because you’re “supposed to” or because you want to lose weight is something that, for most Americans, never achieves immediate or permanent results. Thus, many exercise goals are easily abandoned.
smart watches, whose sales have jumped during the pandemic, has played a role in reimagining exercise by rewarding people for less intense movement. The Fitbit app, for example, has helped promote the 10,000 steps per day goal and will notify you if you haven’t walked at least 250 steps every hour. And your Apple Watch will notice if you “closed three rings” each day by hitting a specific calorie-burning goal, a step goal, and a standing time goal. These are the kinds of small accomplishments that Eli Diaz, the 28-year-old voice actor in Los Angeles, had to embrace. She used to exercise regularly by cycling or walking with her wife to work a few miles away. But she told me by email that she had felt “incredibly immobile” over the past two years, which was a shock to the system. In her most despondent state, Diaz resorted to walking in circles around the living room sofa in short spurs during the day. She said she still can’t always exercise like she did before the pandemic, because she is immunocompromised and COVID-19 is a constant risk. But now she sees all the moves as valuable: “I’m thankful at this point that I can absolutely exercise it.”
Remote work is here to stay at least for some of us, and this mindset about working out can continue beyond the present moment. Goldberg said that working from home in the era of the pandemic is not “normal” work from home, as many people she spoke with feel depressed and lethargic. They tend to recommend that clients start tracking their movement so they can see that when they don’t stand for hours or walk more than a few hundred steps a day, that’s probably part of the reason for their mood. This way, remote work can begin the process of discovering how important movement really is, and figuring out how you would like to meet that need. “There is a lot of emotional, mental and physical energy conserved, in your own environment,” she said. “It’s almost like finding yourself again.” Perhaps now we can collectively redefine what counts as exercise. As parts of our lives continue to be mediated by a screen, moving our bodies with intention can serve as a good reminder that we have one.