By Anthony Fleg, MD

Movement is Our Medicine

As COVID Surges, Physical Activity is More Important Than Ever

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced families to drastically change their movement. Adults find themselves cut off from gyms, classes and groups that supported their efforts to stay active. Children’s chances for movement with their friends, from the playground at recess to sports leagues, have disappeared.

In my role as a family medicine physician I give my patients prescriptions to stay active.

They ask, “Why should I keep moving during this time?”

My answer is simple. “Because this is when we need our movement the most.”

Anthony Fleg, MDNot to say that moving is easy. The limitations the pandemic has placed on our usual ways of staying fit are tempting excuses to curl up on the couch and wait until COVID has passed.

But this is when we need to keep moving more than ever. Let’s explore briefly the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of movement – and why they are especially important during the pandemic.

Physical – We know that staying active has positive effects on our body, preventing and treating many of the most common chronic health conditions. These days, many of us – young and old – are more sedentary, doing school and work from the living room. We need to find activities that get us activated, sweating, pushing our body to its limits. Even simple stretching to get full range-of-motion out of our limbs is important in our hunched-over-virtual-school/work pandemic lifestyle.

Emotional – There is strong data on movement’s role in relieving stress and for its ability to create a strong state of emotional health. With the stresses of pandemic living, where all of us live in a trauma-like state, there is no better way to clear the mind than to take time to unplug and sweat ourselves to an emotional re-set.

Spiritual – This realm is less talked about. It refers to how we connect to the world around us – to each other, to Mother Earth, the elements, the plants and animals, and to a higher power. The pandemic has challenged much of this connection, and our movement can be a beautifully simple and effective way to restore this connection.

So, keep moving in these next months. Not because it is easy, but because it is necessary. Movement is a medicine available to us all, one that we need in this stressful time for physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Tips for families:

  • Pick activities that everyone in the house can enjoy together – for instance, if not everyone in the house can run, choose walking or hiking instead.
  • Staying safe while we move in the pandemic involves keeping our groups small (five or less), wearing masks when outside, and maintaining 6 feet or more of distance from others. Going to less-traveled places, and at times when fewer people are using those spaces will increase the safety of your outdoor movement.
  • Start with yourself – for the parents out there, the best way to get the family moving might be to start yourself. It will be easier to convince others to move when you lead the way!


Anthony Fleg, MD, is a University of New Mexico family medicine physician and director of the Native Health Initiative. He prescribes movement to his patients and leads an NHI program called Running Medicine that empowers families and communities to mind/body/spirit wellness through movement.

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