Disclaimer: The activity guidance below is intended for healthy individuals with no symptoms or diagnosis of respiratory illness. Do not exercise if you have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. Contact your doctor if you have any questions.
People are sheltering in place all over the world in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are all trying to do our part by staying home to slow the spread of the coronavirus and to free up first responders. As a result, our daily routines have changed… a lot. Most of us are working from home, learning from home, and exercising at home. Whether your local community is under a strict lockdown order or a less restrictive stay-at-home request, common areas like state parks, gyms, and recreation centers have all closed.
Yet, it’s still vitally important to stay active during these quarantined weeks and months. Regular exercise does wonders for your body and mind. Physical activity leads to:
- Improved immune system
- Reduced high blood pressure
- Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
- Improved bone health and muscle strength
- Increased balance and flexibility (which reduces risk of falls in older adults)
- Better sleep
- Decreased depression and anxiety
- Delayed onset of dementia
How much exercise do you need?
For healthy individuals, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week. That averages to about 30 minutes of exercise per day if you work out 5 days a week. Physical activity is can be defined as any type of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy.
Moderate-intensity activities may include brisk walking, dancing, gardening, active involvement and game-playing with children, and chores or housework. Vigorous-intensity exercise includes running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, hiking, climbing up a hill, carrying heavy loads, and competitive sports like basketball, soccer, and football.
So, how do you stay active when your local gym is closed and you can’t head to the neighborhood pool for a swim? You might be surprised by how much of a sweat you can work up in your own home and outdoor space. With a bit of creativity and planning, you can meet (or exceed!) those WHO activity recommendations to reap the physical benefits and save your sanity.
Staying Active Inside
Do you already own a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike? Got a set of free weights and a yoga mat? Great! – you’re all set. Most of us don’t have gym equipment in our homes, though, and even those of us that do sometimes get bored with machines.
There are hundreds of free workout videos online and several fitness gurus who are offering free content during the pandemic to help people stay fit. Most of these online exercise videos do not require any equipment. Spend 5 minutes Googling “free workout videos” or “exercise classes at home” and you’ll find enough classes to last you the rest of the year. You might start by picking a couple aerobic videos and a few strength-training videos for next week. Save the links so you’re ready to go each day when it’s time to get moving. Or, if you already know you love Pilates or Barre or HIIT classes but can’t get to your local studio right now, jump right in to the (free!) online versions of these classes. If you are brand new to exercise, look for beginner classes, start slow, and stop if you begin to feel pain.
If virtual fitness instructors aren’t really your thing, try a series of short exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, wall-sits, leg extensions, planks, calf raises, jumping jacks, and/or any other exercise you can think of or enjoy doing.
When you’re crunched for time, try breaking up your exercise into shorter chunks. Every minute counts, so 10 minutes in the morning after you’ve had your coffee, 10 minutes before a quick lunch break, and 10 minutes after you’ve finished work for the day will still lead to long-term health benefits and immediate improvements in cognitive functioning and mood.
Dancing, household chores, walking up and down the stairs, and active involvement with your children also count. (Do you know what it’s like to chase a toddler all day long? Phew!) The point is – move your body. Every minute counts and all movement matters.
Staying Active Outside
Get outside as much as you can while keeping your safe physical distance from others and following your official local health orders regarding the number of people with you. For example, in some regions, going for a run in your neighborhood or hiking a local trail is permissible and in other regions, more restrictive measures are in place. After you’ve double-checked allowable outdoor activity, try any of the following activities:
- Yard work
- Family activity: play flag football, tennis, soccer, tag, or any other active game
- Hiking local trails
Staying Active While You Work
Where and how you work when you’re at home is also important to your overall health and well-being. You can even stay active while you work! Given that many of us will be working from home for months instead of weeks, it’s important to invest in a healthy workspace. Poor posture from makeshift home-offices (eh hem, sitting on the couch with your laptop on the coffee table) can lead to neck and back pain over an extended period of time.
To optimize your physical and mental health while you work, keep these tips in mind:
- Set up a keyboard and a mouse for your laptop and elevate your laptop if you don’t have a monitor
- Don’t work on your couch – it will encourage you to slump
- Sit at a desk with an ergonomic chair or place a cushion behind your back
- Get up and move every 30 minutes – take a walk outside to check the mail, go up and down the stairs 3 times, spend 5 minutes stretching
- Consider using blue light blocking glasses if you look at a screen all day to reduce digital eye strain
Other Tips for Staying Healthy at Home
In addition to regular exercise, adequate sleep and a balanced diet will make an immediate difference on how you feel. Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Emphasize fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts for your diet. Limit refined sugars and limit or avoid alcoholic beverages, which can reduce your immune system and make you more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.
If you’re not currently in the habit of prioritizing exercise, diet, and sleep, don’t overwhelm yourself with a complete overhaul of all of your habits. Start with small changes and be consistent with the tweaks you make to moving, eating, and resting. You will be amazed at the discipline you develop over time as you start to see results and feel better physically and mentally.
You can give yourself an extra boost with multi-vitamins and certain supplements that support your overall cognitive functioning and physical activity. Some natural nootropics, like Sophrosyne Brain, are specifically designed to support a healthy brain defense and increased mental clarity. Sophrosyne Brain also increases mental energy and provides a much-needed boost during these long days of remaining confined in our homes to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
What physical activities do you enjoy doing at home? How has your exercise regime changed since sheltering-in-place? Leave a comment - we’d love to hear from you!