Even for Iower, who has never had COVID-19, a doctor says the ongoing pandemic is severely affecting our mental and physical health.
Ruth Kern-Scott, regional director of a chain of physical therapy centers, says she continues to see more and more clients feeling the negative effects of a more sedentary lifestyle. “They sit a lot more, on average two to three hours more per day, than they were in their office job,” says Kern-Scott. “Sitting has many negative physical consequences, including back pain, upper back pain, and neck pain.”
Many Iowans are seeing a decline in their general health, she says, with the increase in weight gain and blood sugar problems – which is likely due to the shift towards leaving work due to the pandemic. “Many don’t return to the office, but continue to work from home and work on a laptop on an ergonomically not designed kitchen counter,” says Kern-Scott. “You get headaches and neck pain, and we are seeing more incidents of bulging discs and sciatica in the lower back.”
Kern-Scott works for FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers with more than 400 facilities in 45 states, including Des Moines. “Of course we can create individual, precise training programs,” says Kern-Scott. “A lot of people stopped exercising because maybe their gyms were closed or people didn’t want to work out in masks or even didn’t feel safe going to the gym and now they really don’t know where to start.”
One possible starting point is our computers, which can be set to remind us every 20 or 30 minutes to get up and stretch. She says we need to embrace fitness technology and use it for ourselves. “If you have an Apple Watch or a Smartwatch, do you keep track of how much I move?” says Kern-Scott. “It’s pretty shocking, even to me. During the pandemic, I realized that I only take 2,000 steps in a day. We know we need 10,000 steps for general health alone, not even fitness. “
She says “exercise is lotion” and we all need to lubricate our joints and move our bodies to be healthy.