Women Jogging

How to Safely Stay Active and Exercise to Best Protect Yourself or Family

After so many months of sheltering at home, you and your family are probably excited to get outside. And even if you’ve seen the news that being outdoors is safer, maybe you’ve also seen pictures of crowded beaches, parks, and hiking trails, and wonder if it’s really safe to exercise outdoors.

At AltaMed, we know that feeling like you’re trapped inside can place a strain on your mental health. While exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health, we urge you to use extreme caution when you go outdoors. Read on to learn how to minimize the risks while participating in outdoor activities.

Plan Ahead for a Trip to the Park

Woman takes her dog for a walk in the park

First, check to make sure your park is open. Then pick a time when it’s likely to be less crowded – this could be early mornings and weekdays. Since we’re getting into the warmer times of the year, avoid afternoons when the sun is at its peak (even in the mornings or when it doesn’t seem sunny, UV rays can still damage your eyes and skin). Make sure you can safely maintain a distance of at least six feet from anyone else who is not in your household, and of course, don’t forget to wear a cloth face covering.

Also, remember to practice coronavirus etiquette! Even as you social distance, remember that other people need their space, too. If possible, avoid taking a large group of people from your household on an outing. And always walk single-file to make sure others can safely pass.

Take a Pass on Playgrounds

Childrens Playground

Even if you find an empty playground, keep in mind that you don’t know who was there before you, and it may not have been sanitized. Plus, as a parent, you know how difficult it is to keep your child from touching their face. For now, there’s no guarantee that public playgrounds are safe.

Do Your Best to Stay Out of Public Bathrooms

Men’s Restroom Sign

At this point, scientists still aren’t sure if the coronavirus can spread through waste products – and there are plenty of other surfaces for germs to hide on. Your best bet is to avoid public restrooms altogether. However, if that doesn’t sound like a reality, prepare a kit that includes:

  • Disposable toilet seat covers
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disposable plastic gloves

Avoid touching anything in the restroom – this includes doorknobs, sink faucets, or toilet lids. Don’t use air dryers, which can potentially spread small particles throughout the air.

Exercise Caution at Public Pools

Swimming Pool Without People

Here’s some good news for summer: Covid-19 has not been shown to spread through water, and public pools use chemicals that kill or inactivate the virus. That doesn’t mean you can let your guard down.

If you want to swim at a public pool, such as those run by Los Angeles County or even a pool at an apartment or condominium complex, make sure it is cleaned frequently. Avoid the area entirely if there’s a gathering of ten or more people. To keep your family safe:

  • Don’t share equipment, such as swimming masks, snorkels, pool noodles, flippers, kickboards, or even towels.
  • Don’t wear a face covering while you’re swimming.
  • Avoid public restrooms and communal changing areas.

It’s Too Early for Team Sports

Man Carrying His Child

It’s fine to play catch with your family but participating in a game with people outside your household increases everyone’s risk for transmitting the virus.

If you’ve got a young athlete who is afraid all the time off will affect their performance, they can still practice some of their individual skills, such as running, throwing, or dribbling in a physically-distanced and safe environment. Get involved and get creative!

The Lowest-Risk Ways to Stay Active:

Try Exercising at Home

Woman Doing Jumping Exercises

If you have a yard, that’s the perfect place for jumping jacks, skipping rope, jogging in place, or even a brisk game of “tag.” You can also walk laps around your neighborhood (while practicing physical distancing, of course).

Think of YouTube and Apps as Your New Personal Gym

Man Watch Workout Videos

There are thousands of different exercise videos and apps for your phone available, representing every activity you can think of – from yoga and Pilates to weight-lifting, high- intensity interval training, dance, and more.

Start a Do-It-Yourself Weight Training Routine

Young Man Exercising at Home

You should still do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week, but weight-training can help you get even more out of your fitness routine. You’ll increase your lean muscle mass, which can fire up your metabolism and protect your joints and bones. If you lack equipment, you can also use simple household items for your weights:

  • A gallon of water or jug of kitty-litter or laundry detergent makes a great kettlebell.
  • Instead of dumbbells, lift canned food or bottles of water.
  • A dishtowel or a scarf can be used in place of a resistance band.
  • A paper plate can be used in place of a glider on carpet and a towel can be used on hard flooring.

Above All, Exercise Caution!

Not sure if you’re healthy enough for vigorous exercise? Call us first. Our facilities are open, and you may be able to see a doctor with a telehealth visit. We want you to get active and have fun, but your family’s health and safety is our top priority.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

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Latino couple running in the morning

The Beginners’ FAQs on Cardio Exercise

Cardio. It’s a word that gets used a lot. But what does it really mean? What’s the best kind? And how much is the right amount?

If you don’t know much about exercise or are totally new to it, we want to help you get started by answering some common questions about what cardio does, why you should do it, and how to get the most from it.

What Does Cardio Really Mean?

Chest X-Ray

Cardio is short for cardiovascular – relating to the heart and blood vessels. We call it cardiovascular exercise because it elevates your heart rate and gets your blood flowing for a long period of time. When we talk about cardio, we’re talking about activities like running, walking, jogging, swimming, or dancing.

What’s Good About It?

Young Women Exercising

Cardiovascular exercise is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy! Regular cardiovascular exercise can:

You can also make cardiovascular exercise a social activity that you can do with friends and family. Once you get used to moving more, you might think about walking to work to beat the stress of traffic.

How Much Do I Need?

Young Man Swimming

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most adults should aim for 150 - 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking, light jogging, tennis swimming, or dancing a week. Or, if you can dial up the intensity on your exercise (running, aerobics, Zumba, lap swimming, rowing), you can cut that number to 75 - 150 minutes a week.

Whoa! Isn’t That a Lot?

If you’ve never exercised before, it may sound like a challenge. But if you break it down into daily chunks, you can do it! If you’re a beginner, aim for 20 minutes a day. You don’t have to do it all at once – you can start by doing five or 10 minutes of cardio several times a day. The CDC also recommends spreading it out over at least three days of the week to get maximum benefits.

Do I Need to Go to the Gym?

Training Clothes and Equipement

The gym does have all kinds of fancy exercise machines, but you don’t need a gym membership to get fit. Consider this list of activities:


  • Dancing
  • Easy swimming
  • Riding a bike
  • Walking briskly (2.5 miles per hour or faster)
  • Light hike
  • Yardwork

Vigorous Activities

  • Exercise classes such as step aerobics or kickboxing
  • Jogging or running
  • Jumping rope
  • Riding a bike faster than 10 miles per hour
  • Swimming laps
  • Long-distance hiking
  • Vigorous dancing

How Hard Should I Work?

Group of Women in a Dancing Class

You should work hard enough that your heart rate and breathing increases, but not so hard that you’re completely out of breath. You should have enough breath that you can have a conversation while exercising.

What If I’ve Never Worked Out?

Woman sit aside cardio Equipment

If you’ve never been active before, some of these exercises may seem challenging. If you take on too much too fast, you may get discouraged and quit. Take it slow and steady. If you’re aiming for 20 minutes a day, it’s OK to do 10 minutes in the morning and then 10 minutes in the evening until you’ve built up your endurance. Then pick up the pace!

If you have a certain goal in mind – for example, a breast cancer awareness walk – give yourself time and work up to it gradually.

Once I Start Working Out, Should I Change My Diet?

Healthy Lunchbox

You don’t have to – but it’s always a good idea to include more fresh produce and lean meats into your diet. Unless you are engaged in very strenuous exercise for hours at a time, skip the protein shakes, nutrition bars, and sports drinks. You should also drink more water, especially before and during your exercise.

If you’ve never exercised before, have a serious health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or high blood pressure, or you’ve recently had cancer treatment, check with your doctor before starting a cardio regimen. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to make an appointment.

Woman with Back Pain

6 Exercises and Stretches That Can Help Prevent Back Pain

Back pain is so common it affects almost everyone at some point in their lives. Men and women both get it; it can happen when you’re young or old; and couch potatoes as well as athletes suffer from it occasionally. In most cases, back pain goes away on its own in a few days.

For many who have back pain, the last thing they want to do is exercise. However, lying in bed for long periods of time can leave you weaker which can make your back hurt worse.

The best way to avoid back pain is by keeping your back, and all the muscles that support it, strong and flexible.

These gentle but effective exercises can do just that. Those who are overweight are much more likely to have back pain. If you are overweight, you may benefit from a program of vigorous exercise. Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise is right for you!

1. Pelvic Tilt

Pelvic Exercise

This goal of this warmup exercise is to put your back and pelvis in the ideal neutral position, which can relieve pain and help you move the rest of your body better.

Lay on the ground with your knees bent and your hands on your lower abdomen. Your back probably has a slight arch to it: notice how this feels.

  1. Pull your abdominal muscles in. Imagine you are trying to suck your navel towards the back of your spine.
  2. Move your hips up as if you are trying to “tuck” your pelvis underneath you.
  3. Relax your lower back. Your back is now supported by your abdominal muscles, with only a slight curve. This is neutral spine.
  4. Hold for up to 10 seconds, then return to the original position.

Now that you know what neutral spine feels like, try to recreate it through the rest of the exercises. Concentrate on your breathing: besides the back benefits, this exercise is a great way to cope with stress.

How many: Start out with 10 tilts.

How often: You can do these every day.

2. Quad Stretch

Stretch Exercises

If you work at a desk job or sit for long periods of time, the muscles at the front of your legs (the quadriceps or quads, for short) may become tight and short. This can create more stress on your lower back. Loosening up these muscles can relieve this tension.

  1. Reach behind you, grab your right shin with your right hand, and bring it toward your buttocks. Hold onto a piece of furniture with your left-hand for support.
  2. Hold your core in tight and don’t let your back arch.
  3. Hold for 15 – 30 seconds, then stretch the other leg.

If you’re not very flexible, try this stretch on the floor. You should feel a deep stretch in the front of your leg, from your groin to your knee. Stop if you start feeling it in your back.

How many: 2 or 3 on each leg.

How often: You can do this stretch every day.

3. Knee to Chest Stretch

Knee to Chest Exercise

This stretch can help loosen the muscles in both the front and back of the hips, the groin, and lower back, and it will help your range of motion. The key to getting the most benefit from this stretch is to keep your back in a neutral position. A gentle arch is ok, but you should hold your abdominal muscles tight.

  1. Lay on your back.
  2. Bring your right leg up and bring your knee to your chest. Hold for 15 – 30 seconds.
  3. Return to original position.
  4. Repeat with left leg.

If you can’t get your knee up very high, don’t force it. You can only go as far as you can go! But if you practice this stretch regularly, you’ll be able to get a deeper stretch that can help to loosen up your back and hips.

How many: 3 to 5 on each leg.

How often: You can do the stretch every day.

4. Cat-Cow Stretch

Animation of Back Stretch Exercise

This exercise can help make your entire spine, from your hips and lower back all the way up to your shoulders and neck, more flexible.

  1. Start by getting down on all fours. Your knees should be about hip distance apart and your hands should be as wide as your shoulders. Your stomach should be firm, as if you’re trying to suck your navel to your spine.
  2. Inhale and tilt your pelvis back so it sticks up. Keep your abs tight but drop your belly down.
  3. Move your head up like you are trying to look up at the ceiling, but don’t strain your neck.
  4. As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back. You should look like an angry cat with an arched back
  5. Inhale and move back to the ‘cow’ part of the pose.

How many: 10 complete cycles going from cat to cow.

How often: You can do this stretch every day.

5. Bridge

Bridge Stretching Exercise

This exercise is excellent at strengthening all of the muscles in your abdomen and hips that support your back.

  1. Lay flat on the ground with your knees bent and your toes facing forward.
  2. Use the big muscles in your buttocks (the glutes) and the backs of your legs (hamstrings) to lift your hips up off of the ground.
  3. Push your heels to the floor and squeeze your abdominal muscles tight. Hold for two seconds.
  4. Return to the floor.

Don’t turn your head while in this position and don’t try to make this a backbend, which will put more pressure on your spine. Keep your back as relaxed as possible. Imagine a straight line going from your chest to your knees.

How many: Repeat 8 to 12 times.

How often: Two or three times a week.

6. Quadruped/”Bird Dog” Exercise

Leg Stretching Position

This exercise will help you improve your balance and posture. It will also help strengthen your abdominal muscles and the muscles in your back that stabilize your spine. It may not seem like much, but this exercise works many of your body’s major muscle groups.

  1. Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Distribute your weight evenly, hold in your core, and keep your back flat.
  2. Gently extend your right arm forward. Imagine you are trying to grow long, starting from your shoulder blade. Stretch through your fingertips.
  3. Extend your left leg out behind you, turning on the muscles in your buttocks and hamstrings to keep the leg up, and point your toes.
  4. Steady yourself by holding your stomach muscles tight. Hold for two seconds
  5. Return to center.
  6. Start on the other side, extending your left arm and right leg.

How many: Repeat 8 to 12 times.

How often: Two or three times a week.

Get the Most from Your Efforts

The key to getting the most from these exercises is to keep them within your range of motion and ability to control the movements. Move gently and never force your body to go beyond it’s limits. The more you do these exercises, focusing on correct posture, the easier they will be for you.

If any of these back exercises cause pain or make pain worse, stop doing them immediately and call your doctor.

Only Attempt These if You’re Not Suffering Pain

If you have back pain that has gotten worse over a few weeks, pain from a trauma or injury, or back pain that has been joined by numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, see a doctor. Call us at (888) 499-9303, we offer primary care and specialty care to support you and your family.

How to Safely Stay Active and Exercise to Best Protect Yourself or Family