The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently published a Call to Action Statement on COVID-19 Considerations for Sports and Physical Activity. Here is what ACE Certified Professionals need to know to put these recommendations into practice when working with clients.
While there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to COVID-19, we do know that the virus attacks vascular tissue throughout the body and causes ischemic injury and inflammatory reactions that destroy cells and tissues. We also know that the virus causes direct tissue damage and that the immune system can over-respond in a way that can cause significant and widespread damage to the body.
An analysis of the most severe cases of COVID-19 indicates a link to obesity and obesity-related conditions, physical inactivity, older age, and racial and ethnic minority status (1,3). Of course, the prevalence of diseases of inactivity, which include obesity and hypertension, will only worsen as people become less active due to long-term lockdowns and a perceived reduction in opportunities to be physically active.
Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as an opportunity for health coaches and exercise professionals to get creative and expand their approach to empowering clients to become more physically active. This may include offering outdoor or virtual sessions, utilizing off-peak hours at fitness facilities to stagger workouts and encouraging clients to exercise in family clusters. Just be sure to encourage a gradual and safe return to exercise, as this may not be the time to train for peak performance or pursue aggressive training goals.
The health and wellness benefits of physical activity—including improvements in physical and mental health, immune function and stress management—are more important now than ever. Consider the following important calls to action in your work with clients:
- Healthy individuals should start or continue moderate physical activity for 150 to 300 minutes a week; smaller amounts of physical activity are still beneficial.
- Individuals who had COVID-19 should consult with a primary care physician to determine a safe return to exercise.
- Exercise at home or outside while maintaining proper physical distance from others and using face coverings when needed to minimize droplet spread.
- Maintain immune health by participating in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week and keeping body weight at recommended levels.
- High-risk individuals should refrain from exhaustive exercise, overreaching and overtraining.
- If a client is returning to exercise after a bout of mild or moderate COVID-19 or after having a positive test, advise rest and no exercise for two weeks, followed by slowly resuming physical activity under close monitoring by their health care team.
- Use innovative strategies in the approach to promote physical activity during COVID-19.
- Develop policies to safely reintroduce group activities that augment physical and mental health while being mindful of social determinants of health, such as economic status, physical environment, education, and access to healthy food and quality healthcare.
- Have clients wear masks (and wear one yourself) to reduce spread and avoid close contact when masking is not a viable option.
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