How to Stay Fit Despite COVID Restrictions

How You Can Use Alternative Resources to Get (or Stay) in Shape

Children enjoy the amenities at The Fields at RFK Campus during opening day. Photo credit: Events DC

The Coronavirus pandemic has forced residents into an unexpected summer hibernation. Restrictions on movement in and around the city has been challenging for many. But there’s still a little wiggle room to get in a great exercise routine at home and in your community.

Get Outside
Don’t let the phases of reopening discourage you from fully partaking in a fitness routine. Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been out of practice for a while there’s a way to break ground. Delano Hunter, director of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, points to places in Wards 7 and 8 that are great for walking, running or biking and are social-distance friendly. “Whether an exhilarating bike ride on a paved trail like Fort Stanton Trail, a scenic walk through Kenilworth Park, or a hike on DPR’s first unpaved trail, Pope Branch trail, open spaces East of the River are great resources for the community. Social distancing requirements remain in place, so patrons should wear a mask and keep six feet apart from others utilizing these spaces.”

Recreation Specialist for DC Department of Parks and Recreation and Fit DC Ambassador, Charles Keenan Taylor, suggests ways to tweak your workout as you go. “Walking is a great way to begin or get back into a workout routine. People can progress based on how they feel by increasing the distance, speed and duration. They can also add body weight exercises, or resistance bands to work major muscle groups.”

Taylor also recommends other low risk outdoor activities such as skating and birding. “Residents of Wards 7 and 8 have access to great parks, green spaces, outdoor recreation facilities and a skate pavilion. We can jog, walk, roller blade or ride bikes on the Anacostia River Trail. We also have access to outdoor track and tennis courts like at Kenilworth Park. For those interested in birding and observing nature while getting exercise, Kenilworth Aquatic Garden, which is right off the Anacostia River Trail, has more species of birds than anywhere in the District of Columbia.”

Physical Activity and the Immune System
It may seem like preventing a virus and exercise are unrelated, but they are actually linked in many ways. The World Health Organization recommends continuing physical activity as a way to stay healthy and enhance your immune system. When you exercise, you reduce your blood pressure and lower the stressors that can aggravate chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. These conditions have been known to make people more susceptible to COVID.

Senior Fun in and Out of the Sun
For seniors it’s important to keep moving. Physical activity can improve bone and muscle strength which can help prevent injury from falls. How can you safely move more? Every morning, Monday through Friday, you can find a senior exercise video to jump start the day. Tune in to channel 16 at 9 am. There are also several virtual fitness routines offered for free through Around Town DC, an online event directory specifically for people ages 60 and up. The YWCA, in collaboration with the DC Department of Aging and Community Living, offers “live” social fitness classes. Classes include Zumba Gold, Yoga, strength and resistance training, Kung Fu, and more.

If you need more guidance on virtual fitness and registration, try the Congress Heights Senior Center. There are several live and interactive classes being offered to seniors. WIlliam Richie, director of the center, warmly welcomes local seniors to become a member. “As a member, they will be able to have access to our multitude of classes including fitness. All of our classes/activities are live and interactive.” Interested seniors can call 202-563-7225. A member of their staff will reach out to discuss your virtual membership.

Fit DC Still Wants You to Get Moving
Fit DC, a physical activity promotion program from the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, has switched their efforts from getting people involved in group activities like 5K walks to finding new ways to safely stay in motion. To that end they have created a social distancing health and fitness page that lists videos and online programs that cover things like yoga, urban gardening, and cooking.

Hunter says that DPR changed their focus to suit the needs of residents. “Fit DC is pivoting. We have partnered with the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment to produce videos for exercise. Morning class will be catered to seniors. Afternoon class will be catered to kids.”

Take the Kids to the Fields
Are the kids getting bored in the house? Pack some lunches, hand sanitizer and water and head over to RFK Stadium. This portion of DC sports history has been transformed into a broad open space freshly setup for outdoor play. The Fields at RFK Campus is a green space, sponsored by Events DC, that provides enough playground space and walking/biking trails to keep the kids occupied for hours.

President and CEO Greg O’Dell explains that The Fields is a great space for organized sports as well as free play. With baseball, soccer and lacrosse fields set up as well as a huge playground set, O’Dell says this space is ready for practically anything. “The Fields are 27 acres that includes three multipurpose fields. There’s also a 6,000 ft shaded pavilion for covered play. And a playground with picnic areas so families can eat and enjoy.“

A new group has formed in hopes of getting people in underserved communities access to exercise. We Fit DC has been sponsoring free popup fitness events since late June. Led by certified fitness instructors, participants go through full body workout in locations around Wards 7 and 8 including Anacostia Skate Park, Benning Terrace Field, and Oxon Run Park. Check out their website and social media channels (Facebook and Instagram) to find out where they will go next.

It’s always a good time to exercise and stay active in DC. Public health threats are real, but they don’t have to defeat your efforts. Soak up the sun and have fun this summer, DC!

Candace Y.A. Montague is the health reporter for Capital Community News.