COVID-19 is a terrifying wake-up call for out-of-shape Americans. More than four in 10 adults in the United States are obese, and 60 percent have at least one chronic disease, putting them at high risk of serious COVID-19 complications—or worse, writes Alex Rothstein, M.S., instructor and coordinator for New York Tech’s Exercise Science, B.S. degree program, in a Fortune op-ed.
In light of President Donald Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis, the dangers of having any of those conditions have been thrust into the national spotlight. Until recently, too many Americans viewed exercise as the ticket to a beach body, not the first line of defense against deadly diseases. COVID-19 is finally changing that mistaken belief.
“Now, it’s incumbent upon health professionals to help Americans get in shape. Lives depend on it,” Rothstein writes.
Due to extensive media coverage of COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on the chronically ill, Americans are starting to finally realize that staying fit isn’t just about looking good—it’s about strengthening the immune system and staving off serious health problems.
Fortunately, the fitness industry is trying to accommodate this mass awakening. Many gyms moved fitness classes outdoors and online for the first time, in response to social distancing and statewide lockdowns, among other modifications.
Further transforming Americans’ relationship with exercise—and making it a critical component of their health and wellness plans—will also require the help of exercise science professionals, Rothstein writes. These individuals are trained to develop individualized wellness programs that consider people’s age, health, culture, and other factors that influence their ability to maintain a healthy routine.
Consider someone at risk of developing high blood pressure, who knows they need more exercise, but has no idea where to start. An exercise science professional can help set realistic and achievable goals, something as simple as a short morning walk. That person can then build on those smaller activities and develop longer-term habits that incorporate more vigorous exercise into their routine.
Many Americans still don’t feel safe entering brick-and-mortar gyms, and it’s unclear if they’ll ever want to return. In response, exercise science professionals can build out other innovative tools and training models, such as remote platforms and outdoor workout settings.
“COVID-19 has disrupted our society. But it has also created an opportunity to improve our country’s health by transforming exercise into the primary weapon in our fight against disease.”
Read the entire op-ed.
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