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UNF professor reports on returning to exercise in a pandemic, staying healthy in the new year

January 5, 2021

Headshot of Dr. James ChurillaDr. James Churilla, UNF professor and Exercise Science and Chronic Disease Graduate Program director, recently completed a study examining sedentary time (e.g., sitting) and heart failure. He is working on a second study, examining blood vessel health and the risks of heart failure and has published a paper on returning to exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic in the ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal.

Some of the exercise recommendations (adapted from a paper on “Sport, Exercise and COVID-19, the Disease Caused by the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus” by Wackerhage, Everett, Krüger, et al.) include:

  • For athletes: Exercise training/sport-specific conditioning can continue. Group training with social distancing may be allowed while following current recommendations for group activity. Also be cautious with prolonged high-intensity exercise to help avoid a weakened immune system.
  • For apparently healthy adults: Exercise at home or outdoors (alone). Consider online personal training and group fitness classes. When exercising outdoors (e.g., walking, running), exercise alone when possible, use/carry a mask when encountering others, and maintain social distance (double your distances and do not draft).
  • For the elderly: Exercise at home or outdoors, following COVID-19 precautions. This population may be at particular risk of depression and exercise inconsistency because of reduced social interaction. Consider social elements such as the Internet (online exercise classes) and phone interaction.

Some tips on staying healthy in the new year:

  • Move more, sit less. Incorporate “exercise snacks” into your day. An exercise snack is taking a break from being sedentary (e.g., sitting). So, get up from your chair/desk or the couch every hour and take a five-minute walking break.
  • Start performing some type of resistance training two days per week. Resistance training can be as simple as using elastic resistance bands/tubes at home or in your office. Regular resistance training can improve your cardiometabolic health (e.g., blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat).
  • Sleep at least 7 to 8 hours per night, but no less. Research published by Dr. M. Ryan Richardson, UNF Undergraduate Exercise Science Program director, suggests that sleeping less than 6 hours per night may have deleterious effects of your cardiometabolic health.

Churilla has been a professor at UNF in the Brooks College of Health since 2007. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed scientific research papers and abstracts in the areas of physical activity epidemiology and clinical exercise physiology, with an emphasis on cardiometabolic health, lifestyle medicine, population health surveillance, and sports medicine.