It's not always possible to get to the gym when you're working from home, travelling, or socially estranged. However, no matter what your circumstances are, these tips can help you stay active and healthy.
The significance of remaining active
When you're stuck at home, travelling for work, on vacation, or quarantined, it's difficult to stick to an exercise routine or meet your fitness goals. You may have limited access to fitness facilities or find it difficult to adjust to a new routine. Perhaps you miss the camaraderie of your gym, the comfort of swimming laps in your local pool, or the social connection that comes from walking or hiking with your usual group of workout buddies. If you're used to going to a fitness class with a motivating instructor, you might be disappointed in the intensity of workouts on your own.
Maintaining an exercise routine at home or in a hotel room may appear to be more of a "should" than a "want to." And, with so many of us out of work and struggling financially right now, keeping a gym membership and staying active may seem like a distant memory. However, even minor activity can have a significant impact on how well you think and feel. Exercise is, in fact, one of the most powerful tools we have for staying physically and mentally healthy—and you don't need access to a gym or an expensive health club to reap the benefits.
Exercise can help alleviate depression, stress, and anxiety, as well as aid in the management of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. By finding new ways to get moving and stay motivated, you can take control of your mood and well-being, maintain a sense of control during these times of great uncertainty, and stay on track with your exercise goals even when your normal routine is disrupted.
Making an exercise plan to keep you motivated
Planning is essential for creating and sticking to an exercise routine. Consider any ongoing health concerns, the time you have available, as well as your energy and stress levels, when developing an exercise plan. Many people have reported feeling tired recently as a result of the pandemic-related stress, so if you're still juggling teaching your kids and working at home, or if you're unemployed and worried about finances, now may not be the time to embark on a challenging new fitness plan.
Set reasonable goals centred on activities you enjoy, no matter what your circumstances are. You're more likely to stick to an exercise plan if you start small, celebrate your successes, and gradually build up.
Prioritise your workouts. People who schedule their fitness activities alongside their regular appointments are more likely to stick to their plans. You wouldn't cancel your dentist appointment because you were too busy at work or simply didn't feel like it at the time. Rather, you would complete your obligation and then return to work.
Workout when it is convenient for you. Many people who follow a long-term exercise programme work out in the mornings. Completing your fitness routine in the morning can energise you and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. Others find it beneficial to take a break from work and get moving in the afternoon when their energy is low.
Be specific in your goals—and keep track of your workouts. Rather than aiming to "get in better shape," set a specific goal, such as "walk 30 minutes in the morning on Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday." To keep track of your progress, use one of the many fitness trackers or smartphone apps available, or simply use a calendar to record the length of your workout, distance, and effort level. Tracking your progress can help you stay accountable, give you a sense of accomplishment, and encourage you to keep going.
Say it out loud. Tell a friend about your goals and routines, or share them on social media. You're less likely to skip a session if you know your friends will be curious about how you did. And if they give you positive feedback, it will give you a boost for your next session. Working out with a friend can also help you stay on track when you can't be physically together. Set up regular times to exercise together via phone or video call, and offer each other support and encouragement.
Tips for getting the necessary activity—anywhere
Always be safe, wear proper footwear, begin slowly, and give your muscles and tendons time to adapt to any new activity. If you have any underlying health conditions, take medication for a heart problem or to control blood pressure or blood sugar, or experience dizziness, balance problems, or joint issues, always consult your doctor. And if you experience pain while participating in an activity, STOP.
Get as much fresh air as possible. Unless your area is under a stay-at-home order or you must remain in quarantine, try to get as much exercise outside as possible. Take a walk, jog, or ride your bike outside, but wear a mask and/or keep a safe distance from others. The sunshine and fresh air will provide an additional boost to your mental health.
Maintain variety in your workouts. While working out at home or in a hotel room, watch your favourite streaming show, listen to a podcast, or listen to some great music. To keep things interesting, go for a walk in a new part of town or call a friend. Alternatively, try "exergames" or activity video games that simulate dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or tennis. If you are unable to participate in the real thing, these can be excellent substitutes.
Take a different route. By incorporating mindfulness, you can fully immerse yourself in the experience of walking outside. Take note of the smell of the air, the variety of flowers and trees, and how the sun or wind feels as you move.
Bringing your attention to these things can give your conscious mind a break from its worries and allow your creativity to flow. You might find new ideas and solutions coming to you when you weren't even aware you were working on them. If you want to increase the intensity of your walks, look for hills, do some step ups on the curb at each corner, skip, or even jump up and down the curb a few times (if appropriate for your fitness level and joints).
Try something new. Have you ever wanted to try barre exercise, line dancing, cardio funk, or HIIT (high-intensity interval training)? Find a free online video, sign up for one of the many online classes, or download an app to help you.
Many people feel more at ease trying something new when no one else is around. You might just discover your new hobby! Consider boxing, Pilates, or yoga. Don't be afraid to try something new, and tailor your online search to your specific needs, such as 'yoga for over 50,' 'golf-specific exercises,' or 'basic Pilates for beginners.' Every day, many new, and often free, classes are added. Just keep in mind to avoid causing pain.
Join the children. Play catch or tag with your children, go for a bike ride, shoot baskets, or pass the soccer ball. Playing together can even help repair a strained relationship by diverting attention away from schoolwork or chores.
Miss going to the gym? Make a home gym. If you have the space, designate an inviting area of your home for exercise and keep your equipment nearby. To perform resistance exercises, use resistance bands, water bottles, or your own body weight. Start with push-ups against the wall, then progress to the kitchen counter, coffee table, and finally the floor. Do you have stairs in your house? Stair climbing is an excellent strength-training exercise. Step up and down several times while keeping one foot on a step (or try stepping up two steps for an even tougher workout).
How much exercise is enough?
When it comes to exercise, anything is better than nothing. A walk around the block will not only stretch your legs but will also help clear your mind. It might even motivate you to walk a little further the next day.
[Read: Best Exercises for Health and Weight Loss]
However, the current recommendation for adults is to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity) with two sessions of strength building activities per week. That's about 30 minutes of movement five times a week. It's also fine to break it up. Two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute workouts can be equally beneficial. Include warm-up and cool-down time in your workout, as well as heavier activities around the house or garden.