(NEW YORK) — Getting and staying healthy is more important than ever this year with the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the country. The Centers For Disease Control says obesity is a comorbidity for infections and increases the risk of severe illness.

On ABC’s ‘Perspective’ Podcast, Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, said he has been advocating that fitness facilities should be allowed to stay open when proper precautions like social distancing, sanitation, and other safety procedures are met.

“It’s important because physical activity and social contact, just being around other people, are very important for one’s mental health, not only their physical health. And staying physically fit also enhances your immune function as well,” said Dr. Carmona.

Fitness facilities across the nation have changed the way you work out indoors to make it safer. Many gyms do temperature checks when you get inside, limit the number of people allowed at one time, and require masks.

“We have apps now where you can declare you have not been around somebody that has covid. You don’t have a fever. You feel well…Once you’re in, then you have to agree to adhere to the public health precautions. That is machines that are socially distanced appropriately, making sure that traffic doesn’t bump into one another, that people can move continually. Every step of the way, we’ve had to change the way people exercise and how they interrelate to one another,” said Dr. Carmona.

If you don’t feel comfortable working out inside, or if you live in a state where gyms are not open, there are still ways to exercise.

“Some people prefer indoors and especially in the cold weather. But if you don’t have that ability, make sure you wear the appropriate clothes and walk, if nothing else, just walk, ride a bike. There are outdoor exercise classes now and there are exercise things you can do at home. Many of the fitness clubs have a digital program where you can do many different kinds of exercise at home,” said Dr. Carmona.  

As for what type of exercise is best, he says it depends on what your goals are.

“For the average person that is not looking to be a marathon runner or a bodybuilder, you want to do a little bit of resistance training, because as we age, we actually lose muscle mass and we want to stimulate our heart a little bit and our lungs,” said Dr. Carmona.

He adds that resistance training is especially important for older Americans.

“Normally as we age, we lose muscle mass. As we lose that muscle mass, we become more unstable on our feet. If you trip on a rug, or on a step, you fall and you sometimes don’t have the strength to haul yourself up. … It’s important that we maintain basic core strength and strength in your extremities. And that doesn’t mean weightlifting necessarily, but you can do push-ups, you could do calisthenics, you can do resistance bands, all of those things coupled with something that gets your heart rate up for some period of time, 20 or 30 minutes,” said Dr. Carmona.

While exercising is important, it is only one part of the puzzle to getting healthy.

“The fuel that you put in your body is important. You can enjoy a sweet once in a while or carbonated beverage, but you don’t want your whole diet to be based on fast foods. So choose wisely, and make sure that all the food included groups are included, that you have a good source of protein, vegetables, [and] fruits,” said Dr. Carmona.

If this year is like every other year many people will start their resolution off strong, but then get tired, or other parts of life may get in the way. Dr. Carmona has some advice to keep going.

“You hear the excuses, I’m too busy, I work, [I have] a family. There are ways you can get around that. Single moms with kids workout at home, they go to a gym [and] there’s child care. You have families that are busy with multiple children and multiple things to do. The kids can run with you. The kids can swim with you. When I was a young medical student and a resident, and I was doing triathlons, my wife would ride a bike with me when I did my runs, my kids would swim laps with me and each of them would do like two or three laps and then they timed for me. We made it a family affair. We just all did it together,” said Dr. Carmona.

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