Senior Finds Solace in Exercise, Alone and with Others

by, Rose Brennan, Senior Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized many aspects of our daily lives.  It’s changed how we shop for groceries, how we go to classes and how we interact with others.

It has also changed the way we exercise, and now that we don’t have the opportunity to run around a campus rife with stairs and hills, it’s a little more difficult for students to break a sweat while stuck at home.  But for senior Tomo Dugan, the opportunity to exercise and stay healthy is still there; he just has to get creative with it.

Dugan’s home state of New Jersey is abiding by many of the social distancing regulations that are commonplace near New York, which essentially became the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in America. New Jersey closed non-essential businesses, required people to stand at least six feet apart and closed the parks in the county where Dugan lives, which has been particularly tough for him.

“I love exploring nature at either [Van Cortlandt Park] or my usual park at home,” he said. “I have had to adjust my route to include road running or a few distance parks that aren’t closed.”

With the closure of non-essential businesses, including gyms, there are less opportunities to get active.  But Dugan also recognizes that a pandemic can take a toll not only on people’s physical health, but their mental health as well.

“Obviously no one can go to gyms, and we don’t have our usual daily commutes either to work or classes,” Dugan said. “I think my own and a lot of my friends’ mental health have taken a toll, which makes it more difficult to motivate yourself to move.”

However, sheltering-in-place has given people a lot more time than they’re used to having. Dugan is using the time to find new workouts and to devise a few of his own with his friends and family, including at-home workouts with his brother.

Exercise is important, in the midst of a pandemic or otherwise.  But according to Dugan, exercising does much more than just keep you healthy in times of crisis.

“It helps you keep a routine, feel normal, and gives you a sense of goals and purpose,” he said. “It’s easy to forget about physical health during a crisis, but daily exercise can really make you feel happier and healthier.  Physical exercise also helps mental health, since it can make you feel accomplished, calmed and refreshed.”

Another aspect of getting exercise is being held accountable.  This is easy in non-pandemic times, with gym buddies or other friends with whom people can exercise.  But in an age of social distancing, it isn’t always easy to exercise with friends, or as easy as it used to be.

But in the same way technology enables people to still do both work and classes remotely, it can also re-introduce friends and other people into each other’s exercise routines.

“It’s easy to feel disconnected and disheartened with an essentially cancelled end of the semester,” Dugan said. “But working out with others is a good way to keep a connection.  I have done workouts with my brother in our family room or even gone on runs at the same times as my friends.”

He continued.

“There’s a great inspirational benefit of working out with someone else.  You don’t want to let them down.”