Shannon Monnat, associate professor of sociology and Lerner Chair for Public Health Promotion, is the principal investigator for a five-year research project that will examine the impacts of state COVID-19 mitigation policies on adult psychological health, drug overdose and suicide….
Reconnect, Recommit, Rejuvenate: Breathing Fresh Life Into Our Fitness Routine (or Lack Thereof)
To state the obvious: it’s been a long year. Maybe you’re one of those people who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to fall in love with your Peloton, take long walks or bike rides with your family, and get in the best shape of your life.
Or, maybe you spent more time watching Netflix than you thought was humanly possible, ate cookies for breakfast with alarming regularity and let any semblance of an exercise routine disappear faster than you can dismiss Netflix’s “Are You Still Watching?” pop-up.
Maybe you’re somewhere in between.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you are absolutely fine. Find a moment of gratitude for your body, whatever shape it is in. Breathe in the fresh energy of spring and remember that every day brings a new opportunity to move your body, with the help of some tips and encouragement from campus experts.
Move Outside, Together
Our ability to get outdoors more as spring blossoms encourages both physical movement and human connection. “Exercising outdoors with a friend or neighbor, you can walk, roller blade, go for a bike ride, go hiking, all while maintaining social distance and/or wearing a mask,” says Kristen Konkol, assistant teaching professor of exercise science in the Falk College and I-Move program coordinator in the School of Education.
After many months of isolation, the psychological need for socialization is just as important as the physiological need for exercise, Konkol says. There is also an added bonus of accountability when you involve another person in your plans for movement. “Not only will you get the benefits of fresh air and exercise, you’ll uplift yourself emotionally and have someone to connect with—both socially, and for accountability to stay motivated.”
‘A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step’
This Chinese proverb is relevant for those seeking to return to a fitness routine after a year of unpredictability. Kim DeStefano, wellness coordinator with the Office of Human Resources’ Wellness Initiative, recommends small, achievable steps that can lead to bigger goals.
“When you’re just getting back into the swing of things, the idea of doing an hourlong or even 30-minute workout can seem overwhelming,” she says. “Try to begin by committing to five minutes. Once you are up and moving, you may surprise yourself and want to keep going.”
Konkol also emphasizes the importance of allowing yourself some grace. “We’ve all been going through a lot and people tend to be really hard on themselves when they miss a day or if they’ve been out of the habit of exercising for awhile,” she says. “Instead of beating yourself up, welcome the opportunity to re-boot mentally. If today is step one, then today is step one. Tomorrow will be step two. With exercise, it’s a cumulative effect.”
A positive attitude is key, DeStefano says. Remember how good it feels when you make time to move your body and focus on the outcome of being physically active instead of the effort it may take to get started. “Do it for you. Make it a point to set a goal, even a small and very achievable one, then celebrate your successes!”
Get Out and Explore the Great Outdoors
If you’ve been moving consistently but are craving some novel ways to get out and active in the Central New York area and beyond, here are some ideas.
- Empire Pass: For just $80, you and whoever you can fit in your vehicle can access all New York State Parks and Department of Environmental Conservation facilities (more than 120 sites across the state!) through the end of 2021 without paying one-time entry fees for day use. The pass is also sharable.
- John Haley Memorial Trail along Onondaga Lake: This paved, multi-use trail spans nine miles along the western shore of Onondaga Lake, offering spectacular lake and city views and running right through the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview—a great spot to stop for a picnic! Park and enter the trail at the south side of the lake (take I-690 to exit 7), which is less heavily trafficked and remains half-shaded on hot summer days.
- Clark Reservation State Park: Behold all of nature’s beauty within 6 miles of campus. This hidden gem features 5 miles of trails, striking geological features and the picturesque Glacier Lake. You can even download a Bird Checklist [PDF] and track how many different species of birds you spot during your visit!
- The Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park: With its towering waterfalls, lush forests and majestic gorge that earned it the nickname “the Grand Canyon of the East,” there is no shortage of good reasons to visit Letchworth State Park. Opening this summer, the Autism Nature Trail will add to the park’s attractions as a first-of-its-kind, interactive experience in nature designed specifically for those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. The one-mile looped trail has eight stations, including a Sensory Station, Sunshine Slope maze, Music Circle, Curiosity Corner, Reflection Point, Meadow Run and Climb and Design Area. Specialized elements like cuddle swings, gliders and “alone zones” provide an inclusive environment for individuals of differing needs and abilities. Visit autismnaturetrail.com to view renderings of the trail and stay up-to-date on its opening plans.