Just because you're staying home doesn't mean you can't stay active. In fact, exercise is more important than ever now that we're in the middle of cold and flu - and COVID-19 - season.

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" Courtesy of PhysioFit The pandemic has affected people’s ability to be active, but there are still ways to stay healthy and fit.

That’s because moderate physical activity is supported by research as an effective and all-natural way to regulate your immune system, fight inflammation and reduce the risk of illness. Staying active even improves mood – something all of us could appreciate after the stressful year we’ve had.

The problem is that quarantine and local lockdowns can make it difficult to stay active. In this column, I’m highlighting six common fitness mistakes seen during the pandemic. Avoiding these will help you stay healthier as we enter the new year.

1. Not making time to workout

If you tell yourself you don’t have time to work out, you won’t see the many opportunities in your day where you can carve out time to exercise.

The truth is, even just 10 minutes of exercise is better than nothing at all. So, pull out your schedule for the week and pick out a few times to get a workout in. If you have to, sneak in physical activity by:

• Taking work-related phone calls on brisk walks.

• Replacing one half-hour of television with a workout (or even just doing mini-workouts during commercial breaks).

• Stacking your workouts on top of other chores (for example, in between loads of laundry).

• Working out first thing in the morning before the day gets away from you.

2. Setting unrealistic standards

Some folks see the pandemic as an opportunity to establish new healthy routines. But while it’s good to be motivated, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, as this can lead to injury, frustration, or burnout.

Here are a few signs you’ve set unrealistic workout standards for yourself during quarantine:

• You’re trying out all the different workout programs you hear about (instead of sticking with just one or two).

• You’re expecting yourself to work out every single day for an hour or more (even if you didn’t have a solid routine pre-pandemic).

• You’re forcing yourself to do exercises you don’t enjoy.

• You beat yourself up for missing a workout here or there.

It’s fine to challenge yourself, but it’s also important to maintain some perspective. So, check-in with yourself every now and then to make sure you’re not setting the bar so high that you’re destined to fall short.

3. Failing to warm up properly

One benefit of group exercise is that your instructor always takes you through a proper warm-up. When you’re working out by yourself, it can be harder to stay disciplined and get that warm-up in, especially if you’re pressed for time.

But warming up properly is important for preventing injury. A good warm-up may even help you burn more calories during your workout because it elevates your heart rate and boosts exercise efficiency.

Before hitting your next workout, spend at least five minutes doing some dynamic movements to get your body ready to go.

4. Neglecting sleep and nutrition

You can’t make up for a bad diet or a night of poor sleep with exercise. In fact, we need all three lifestyle elements – exercise, sleep and nutrition – for optimal well-being. Plus, poor nutrition and poor sleep can make your workouts less effective (and less enjoyable).

Support your at-home exercise routine with seven to nine hours of sleep per night, along with a diet featuring nutrient-dense foods that provide you with the raw material you need for recovery, muscle growth and sustainable fat loss.

5. Skipping the strength training

Did you know that having more muscle mass helps you burn more calories at rest? This is why strength training is a beneficial tool for fat loss.

Strength training also helps minimize age-related decline in muscle tissue, which will keep you stronger and more independent well into your older years.

Incorporate strength-training exercises into your at-home routine in addition to cardio and stretching. Invest in a few pairs of dumbbells or learn some simple bodyweight movements.

6. Ignoring the pain of injury

Some forms of pain – such as sharp aches with certain movements or pain that lasts beyond a few days of post-workout soreness – can indicate an injury.

Learn the difference between the pain of exertion and the pain of tissue damage, and contact a physical therapist if you need help resolving a nagging problem.

Kim Gladfelter is owner, physical therapist and Pilates instructor at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness, 1000 Fremont Ave., Suite 108, Los Altos. For more information, call 887-6046 or visit physiofitpt.com.