How to stay fit and active at home

Craig McClelland

 

New phrases like ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ are entering our everyday vernacular – but that shouldn’t prevent us from holding onto some valuable words like ‘keeping fit’ and ‘staying active’.

If you’re working from home at the moment, it’s important to keep your health in great shape. And we’ve got some original ideas to help you out.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the following amount of physical exercise each week:

  • 150 minutes of moderate intensity, or
  • 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, plus
  • Two or more days of muscle-strengthening exercises per week

On the face of it, your home environment has fewer opportunities to keep physically active – and more opportunities to be inactive. Yet our bodies (and minds) need exercise to perform at their best so we need to think outside the square.

Stretch into your day

It’s underrated – but stretching is just as important as exercising. Many top sportspeople begin and end their days by going through their stretching regimes.

Now’s an ideal time to create your own routine, making valuable use of the extra time not spent commuting. Start by:

  • Writing down (or noting in your phone) your planned routine and when you intend to stretch each day
  • Creating the space you need to stretch comfortably – rearrange any tables or couches that might prohibit your movement or impede your space
  • Aiming to slowly build up strength and improve your flexibility over time
A women stretching on a beachA women stretching on a beach
A women stretching on a beachA women stretching on a beach

Look at those stairs differently

You don’t really need a gym at home to stay fit and strong. When was the last time you looked at stairs in a positive light? Whether your home has a flight of stairs or just a few steps up to your deck, look at them as a tool for improving your cardiovascular fitness.

Try some of these stair-based exercises:

  • The mountain climber – with both hands on a higher step, alternate between bringing your left knee up to your left shoulder and your right knee up to your right shoulder
  • Squat jumps – face your stairs and jump up to the next step landing in a squat
  • Step up to reverse lunge – stand facing the stairs with your left foot on the second step and your right on the floor, lift your right knee to your chest and quickly reverse to your starting position, then bring your left down to the floor behind your right and lunge

Decide on a number of reps that work for you and aim to get through a 15 minute workout.

Sit less often

Working from home can sometimes become a bit too comfortable. It’s good for your health to avoid sitting for long periods of time, but how can you mix up your home workday to achieve this? A few strategies you could try include:

  • Standing or walking around when you’re on the phone
  • Playing some tunes occasionally – ones which encourage you to move a little
  • Taking regular breaks from looking at your computer screen

If you do have a standing desk (or similar like a kitchen bench), switch between sitting and standing during the day.

Build a bodyweight workout

Home-based bodyweight strength exercises can be as vital for your health as aerobic exercise. If you’re new to this kind of workout, it’s important not to begin trying to do too much, too soon.

Perhaps start with a few easy ‘no equipment required’ exercises.

Sit ups

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your fingertips behind your ears with your elbows bent and pointing sideways. Lift your torso up close to your thighs then slowly lower it down to the floor.

Planks

Place your forearms on the floor and your arms parallel to your body at shoulder width. Raise your ankles so your toes touch the ground. Then hold this position over a time that suits your ability.

Push ups

Lie face down with your toes and palms touching the ground and your weight on your chest. Then raise and lower yourself using your arms while keeping a straight back.

Burpees

Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Bend your hips and knees to lower into a squat and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your feet back into the plank position.

Lower your body all the way down to the floor with your hands still flat and elbows up. Push up with your arms and jump your feet forward. Finally, ‘frog jump’ up into your original starting position.

A few circuits of these exercises should have you getting through your workout in roughly 20 minutes. Find your optimum number of reps while taking quick breaks between each rep and exercise.

Refresh your routine as you go

Don’t let boredom set into your home workout routine. Keep it fresh and innovative by:

  • Adding more reps or sets
  • Introducing something new like side planks, rolls or lunges
  • Mixing things up – like doing push ups against your kitchen counter, step ups on stairs or even handstands!

Set up some makeshift weights

Bags of flour, bottled water and even young kids! If you don’t have a pair of dumbbells around the house or some machine weights in the garage, improvise.

Your backyard might have some bricks, logs of wood or buckets of dirt lying around that may be ideal as substitute weights. Perhaps you could even create your own backyard circuit consisting of makeshift weights and bodyweight exercises.

Dig out some of your old exercise equipment

It’s become an ideal time to spruce up the house and get some early spring cleaning done. In the process, you’re likely to reacquaint yourself with some old fitness equipment that may have been misplaced years ago.

Take a look around your garage or spare room and see if there’s an old skipping rope, a long-forgotten fitness video or your previous life’s martial arts gear.

Engage with an online fitness video (or download a fitness app)

An enormity of content is out there on the web and particularly YouTube promoting physical activity. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be sure to find it.

A plethora of apps are also readily available, such as:

  • QuickFit – combine all your fitness needs into a single workout
  • SWEAT – work out at home with the women’s fitness community housed within this app
  • 8Fit – a fitness and nutrition app for both physical and dietary health
  • Daily Yoga – guided classes to help you learn the basics
  • Freeletics – work out anytime, anywhere with your digital personal trainer

Run, walk, cycle and even garden

At the end of the day, any physical activity that raises your heart rate is super for your cardiovascular health.

Whether that’s running around your home’s yard, cycling in your apartment’s forecourt, walking around your neighbourhood or getting struck into the garden, any amount of movement you can squeeze in will help you stay active.

A man walking by himself on a beachA man walking by himself on a beach

Nutrition, diet and sleep

Planning to stay active and fit is all very well, but some of your hard yakka will be undone if you don’t also have a nutritional plan and aren’t able to get sufficient quality sleep. A few focus points to help you achieve these goals include:

  • Mapping out your meals for the week and noting down exactly what you need to buy on your next grocery shop
  • Harnessing the calming power of meditation, yoga, tai chi or another form of mindfulness training
  • Separating parts of your day into different areas – for work, fitness and meal times

Eating well and getting enough sleep is vital for many aspects of our health, like managing stress and anxiety. But it also helps contribute to living a fit and active lifestyle when self-isolating at home.

 

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