All around the world, lifestyles have been drastically upended because of COVID-19. People are working from home, children are being taught via video chat, doctors are seeing patients using telehealth and households have limited access to the outside community and public spaces.
One of the many detrimental effects of staying home is, of course, difficulty sticking to an exercise routine. Unfortunately, some gyms are still closed, those that are open can be crowded, and outside workouts can depend on factors such as weather, location, and ability to follow social distancing recommendations.
“Maintaining an exercise routine is important. During stressful times, people tend to stop working out. Physical activity can foster a positive mindset, boost mood, decrease stress, improve heart health, reduce tendencies to overeat, ward off weight gain and improve overall quality of life. The great news is this: a full gym and fancy equipment are not required to get in an effective workout at home,” said Alyssa Williamson, a physical therapist at Addison Gilbert Hospital and the athletic trainer at Gloucester High School.
“Try to maintain a normal schedule. If you’re up at 6 a.m. and that’s when you go to the gym, keep it up. As a result, when life goes back to normal, your body won’t be in vacation mode,” suggested Williamson.
“Now is more important than ever to spend time participating in activities of self-care such as eating well, practicing mindfulness and staying active.” Williamson said, adding “this is also a good time to focus on stretching or exercises targeted at injury prevention, especially if you experience common aches and pains such as a stiff back or achy knees.”
Another thing to keep in mind is the amount of movement you are doing throughout the day,” Williamson commented. “One downfall of working from home is the tendency to sit too long. Make sure to take breaks, go to the bathroom, drink water and walk around your house, play with your kids or the dog, anything to keep moving.”
It only takes a couple of weeks to lose prior strength gain, so it is imperative to stay active. Multiple gyms are hosting online classes, workout apps such as Peloton are offering free trial periods, and numerous other social media and online platforms have guided workouts enabling you to still get a full-on sweat at home.
Some activities which can be done at home include cardio, strength training, yoga and Pilates. Dumbbells and other weights aren’t necessarily a requirement. “Get creative,” Williamson suggested, “use soup cans for weights or a step ladder for step-ups.” Bodyweight workouts, including exercises such as squats and push-ups, can be just as effective for increasing blood flow and improving strength. However, please remember to consider any current health conditions and consult with your primary care doctor before trying anything new.
Williamson recommended the following exercises to try:
The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Moderate-intensity exercise can be interpreted as a challenging exercise that elevates your heart rate and breathing rate, but you should not be too uncomfortable and you should still be able to hold a short conversation during the workout. If you feel safe going outside, try walking or running for 20-30 minutes a day. A variety of other aerobic-type classes including spin and Zumba are offered online or through social media platforms.
As mentioned above, you don’t need dumbbells or bands to complete weight training exercises. Grab various weighted items in your home such as books, suitcases with clothes inside or jugs of water. Again, many online platforms offer free workout videos; you can also get an effective workout in using your own body weight. Lunges, side lunges, step-ups, squats, jumping jacks, planks, sit-ups, and push-ups are all examples of bodyweight exercises. Try to complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise with minimal rest to keep your heart rate up.
Yoga & Pilates
Yoga can be practiced at home under the guidance of online instructors, either through live or previously filmed videos and podcasts. There are many poses that can be completed safely by someone with little yoga experience such as child’s pose, downward dog, tree and warrior. The equipment needed for a basic yoga class is minimal. Benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, muscle strength and tone, improved energy and balance, global injury prevention, and decreased stress.
The advantages of Pilates are very similar to those of yoga. Joseph Pilates created this popular exercise style when he was confined in a hospital bed. While some of the moves require a machine, there are various exercises you can do without equipment. Many exercises are focused on building a strong core. As with all of these modes of exercise, videos abound online and on TV, detailing the ins and outs of each.
“Exercise promotes well-being and is an excellent way to manage the stress and anxiety of these crazy times. Establish your normal routine and stay with it,” Williamson reiterated. “Your body will thank you later!”