JACKSON TWP. This spring and summer have been unusual in a number of ways. The string of 90-degree temperature days throughout the end of June and July were a bit out of the norm. The drought conditions of late July and early August are different. But the most unusual part of this spring and summer has been the stay at home order and all of the summer events being canceled because of the pandemic.


While the kids have gotten outside to ride bikes, walk and play with friends, many adults are working from home, doing curbside shopping and generally not getting out and being as active as normal.


While it is easy to just spend every day in front of a computer or watching television or maybe doing some gardening a couple times a week, many experts say it is healthier for all ages to get active and stay active. It is important for physical and as well as mental health.


"There are three areas of focus when thinking of staying active; circulation of blood, improving muscle flexibility and strength and a person’s well-being and mental health," said Lisa Fox, a physical therapist at Mercy Medical Center in Jackson Township


For circulation, Fox said that staying active helps keep the heart healthy, helps with breathing and boosts the immune system which can help fight or prevent illnesses and viruses. Moving or exercising can improve circulation which circulates the antibodies and the white blood cells.


"It is always best to get evaluated or get a checkup from your primary doctor before beginning any exercise program. People with previous injuries or with arthritis need to make sure they are safe to exercise. Here at Mercy Medical, we can customize a plan of care for stretching and strengthening based on the person’s age and their current activity level," Fox said.


Activities like walking or exercise also eases stress because it by releases endorphins as well as relieving anxiety. Fox said that stress increases muscle tension in the neck or lower back regions.


"As a physical therapist, we can do a soft tissue massage or dry needling to help relieve the results of stress," Fox said.


She added that staying active during the pandemic, especially if it continues through the fall and winter months, is even more important during something like a stay at home order.


"Staying active with exercise of walking or biking effects breathing, circulation and keeping the heart healthy. It increases heart rate and the depth of respiratory rate. While all those things may not prevent getting something like COVID, it would make one healthier and might help fight the illness or make the recovery faster and easier. Strong heart, strong lungs and better mental health can help fight any disease," Fox said.


She offered some ways to stay active at home including a walking program either on a local trail or in one of the local parks or on a treadmill at home. She also suggested something even simpler like setting a timer and walking around one’s home every day for a set amount of time. Fox also suggested doing daily general stretching at home or start doing yoga.


Stark County has many parks and walking trails throughout the area. Stark Parks has many options for people to get outside and get active.


"Keeping your body active and moving can be done with a variety of your own activities and experiences at Stark Parks," said Lisa Alderfer, educational programmer-recreation at Stark Parks. "From hiking, running, and biking trails to fishing and boating, to a Mindfulness Walk.


Alderfer added a list of other benefits such as increased energy, improved cardiovascular health and blood pressure, relieves insomnia, weight loss and control, and the ability to make spending time together with safe distancing possible.


Executive director of the Paul and Carol David YMCA in Jackson Township Bandon Bussey added that doing activities at the YMCA is a good way to stay active during all times of the year.


"The YMCA addresses three components including mental, spiritual and physical," said Bussey. "While in the pandemic, the stress of the uncertainty is unhealthy and coming to the YMCA for swimming, cycling or other activities can get people away from that stress for at least the length of the exercise."


He added that getting involved with a regular exercise routine can help release serotonins and trigger one’s brain for positive thoughts.


"We have programs for all ages including low impact swimming, Silver Sneaker programming and we offer a personal trainer to evaluate and help develop programs for individuals," Bussey said.


He offered three things to keep in mind when starting an exercise program:


• Set goals and understand what you want out of it and how to go about accomplishing those goals.


• Just get started and get into a routine as quickly as possible.


• Use the buddy system and find a friend to exercise with and to keep each other accountable.


The American Heart Association is gearing up for it’s annual heart walk in mid-October. While the event this year will be virtual, it’s still a great way to get involved with a good cause and to get moving. The event is used to promote staying healthy and keeping one’s heart healthy. For more details, visit Stark Heart Walk on Facebook.