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How exercise helps us fight illness, and ways to get back in the game

How exercise helps us fight illness, and ways to get back in the game

Quick question: Have you ever been sorry you did an Orangetheory Fitness workout?

Out of breath maybe. Perhaps a little sore. Uncomfortably and gleefully sweaty, no doubt.

But sorry?

Hardly. That’s because even one workout session can boost your mood, get your heart pumping, and — best of all — set you up for long-term benefits.

The irony is that during these crazy days, when exercise is more important than ever, way too many of us are instead sitting it out. We’re staying home and worrying about the delta variant, about life, about everything we hoped we’d never have to worry about again.

Yet, says epidemiologist Amy Ratcliffe, who holds a Doctor of Science degree and is a member of Orangetheory’s medical advisory board, “Our immune, respiratory, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems are all weaker without physical activity. Early on, we knew that COVID impacts the lungs, but we now know the virus can infect and damage almost all organ systems in the body.”

For those who develop COVID, having a high level of cardiovascular fitness before getting sick can be instrumental in helping them deal with the illness and through recovery, she says.

A small amount of time every day goes a long way toward getting the benefits of exercise. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, plus at least 2-3 days of strength training. That’s not quite 22 minutes a day; about two and a half Orangetheory workouts.

Yet barely 20 percent of adult Americans meet that goal for total physical activity; about half meet the goal of aerobic exercise alone. Meanwhile, about half the adult population suffers from one or more chronic diseases. Of the top 10 of those, seven can be “favorably influenced” by regular exercise, according to the Activity Guidelines.

Orangetheory research scientist Brittany Masteller, Ph.D., says that any movement is beneficial. You’ll sleep better, feel more energized, be in a better mood. Exercise regularly and you’ll increase your chances of living longer.

“The benefits of regular activity expand over long-term participation to include lowering blood pressure, decreasing the risk of certain diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, and helping to stay at a healthy weight,” Dr. Masteller says. “As the guidelines point out, physical activity helps reduce anxiety and the risk of depression.”

So what’s holding us back? Maybe simply not knowing where to start. Or thinking we don’t have enough time. Or learning to make exercise a priority, and turning it into a habit. Which is where Orangetheory steps (rows, lifts) right in.

“What we’re doing,” says Rachelle Reed, Ph.D., Orangetheory’s senior director of health science & research, “is continuing to maintain trust by listening to members, by staying aligned to recommendations by the experts, and by working with our medical advisory board to make the best decisions we possibly can.”

And, loudly and clearly, “by standing up and being the voice of reason. Exercise is so important for health,” Dr. Reed says, “and that’s something we offer through our studios, online, and through on-demand workouts.”

As far as not knowing where to start or what to do, Dr. Reed says, Orangetheory has “done the heavy lifting for you. We’ve designed the program based on exercise science principles that should improve health in a couple of months. The hardest part is getting people to stick with it.”

Which is where coaches come in. They form personal relationships with members. They know them by name. They know when someone is lifting heavier or running faster or having setbacks.

“That’s what keeps members showing up,” Dr. Reed says, “the social support and accountability the studio offers.”

For members hesitant to return, many studios offer mask-required classes, or socially distanced classes.

“We’ve been very conservative since the beginning of the pandemic, and now we’re into the fourth wave of it,” Dr. Reed says. “It’s not our first rodeo, so our teams are better at handling everything. It’s become second nature.”

"Whatever decision a member feels comfortable making, we still encourage them to meet the weekly guidelines of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise plus resistance training,” Dr. Reed adds. “We want them to come back when they’re ready."

Meanwhile, Dr. Masteller offers three ways to get (or get back) in the exercise groove:

Set reasonable goals. Use the acronym SMARTer to make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound — then evaluate and re-evaluate.

Have social support and accountability. Knowing you have friends, family, coaches, and/or classmates in your corner helps you stick with your goals.

Plan ahead. Book workouts online and write them down, just like you do your haircut and dental appointments.


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