U of A fitness expert starts blog to help people in isolation get exercise

Keeping up regular physical activity at home can stave off fitness losses—and may even help the immune system, says anatomy and biomechanics researcher.


Doing bodyweight exercises at home can help you gain or maintain strength and can even help keep your immune system healthy, according to U of A fitness expert Loren Chiu, who created a blog with recommended exercises based on research and his own practical experience. (Photo: Getty Images)

When images emerged a fews weeks ago of people clumped together running stairs in the Edmonton river valley as if the world wasn't in the grip of a pandemic, University of Alberta fitness expert Loren Chiu decided to take action.

"Physical activity is necessary, but we can't carry on with a 'business as usual' attitude," said the anatomy and biomechanics researcher. "Frankly, this attitude endangers others and prolongs the time it will take to contain the pandemic.

"I created the Exercise in Isolation blog for anyone interested in home exercise. Now, I'm challenging fitness enthusiasts to be creative and exercise in their own space."

Chiu said there is ample evidence, from research on bedrest to simulated spaceflight/zero gravity conditions, that physical fitness and health decline with inactivity. Coincidentally, he said these declines start within two weeks-the same length of time as a quarantine-and become progressively worse.

"The blog is a combination of 'here are things you can do,' and 'this is why you should be doing it,'" he said.

While exercise programs are typically tailored to an individual, Chiu said they are most effective when there are a variety of spaces and equipment to use. He said the first thing he wants to help people with is problem solving.

"How does one exercise effectively without gym equipment? When confined to their house or apartment? I hope to apply training principles, scientific research and practical experience to develop solutions," he said.

He added the blog is for everyone from children and youth to adults and even athletes, and its main purpose is to be educational and informative.

"What it's not is a platform to provide advice for optimal training during normal circumstances," he added.

Chiu said exercise is probably more important now than ever. Besides the well-documented long-term consequences of losing physical fitness, including weight gain and cardiovascular disease, Chiu said it may also have an immediate effect of reducing immunity.

"There are many other sources providing a daily workout, but I wanted to use my education, research and practical experience so readers can learn how to manage their own physical fitness during the pandemic-knowledge they can continue to use in the future," he said.

Chiu is hoping to publish three or four posts per week and will rely on reader feedback and questions to drive future posts, as well as content from colleagues who have expertise in other related areas.