Everyone knows that exercise is a key component to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise has been shown to improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and most importantly right now — reduce stress and strengthen your immune system.
But with gyms closed and parks often too crowded to exercise in, it’s important that we try to get creative about ways that we can still exercise while at home.
Jerry Gore, MD, founder of the Center for Holistic Medicine, says you don’t have to focus on working out super strenuously to see health benefits. The more important thing is to just not be sedentary. “If you stop sitting and do something not sedentary, then your chances of dying drop significantly,” he says.
Dr. Gore suggests trying to do a variety of exercises that promote flexibility, balance, strength training and aerobic activity.
For example, he says you could try to do some gentle exercises to promote flexibility in your joints in the morning, followed by 20 minutes of walking or gentle aerobic exercise. You can also work with light weights about two to three times a week to increase your muscle strength, or practice tai chi once a week, which combines all four types of exercise.
Gore says even activities such as gardening (which involves bending, lifting, and balance) or putting on some music and dancing can be fun ways to get moving. “Remember to use moderation and personalize it – make it fit you,” he says.
When you do cardiovascular exercise, Dr. Gore says you shouldn’t work out too strenuously. A good rule of thumb is to subtract your age from 220 and then figure out what 50 to 75 percent of that number is and keep your heartrate at that range. So, for example, if you’re 45, you would subtract that number from 200 and get 175, and 60 percent of that is 105, so you should try to keep your heartrate around 105 during your workout.
If you’re out of shape or overweight, start by just doing 10 to 20 minutes of cardio a day, four to five times a week. If you’re not out of shape, the American Heart Association recommends doing 20 to 30 minutes of cardio every day.
Of course, before you begin any kind of exercise routine, it’s best to check with your doctor first. (You can call the Center for Holistic Medicine and schedule a telemedicine appointment to discuss your personal needs).
But once you get the ok, here are some creative ideas for ways to continue to exercise at home:
- Climb the Stairs
Climbing stairs not only will get your heart pumping, but it’s also a great workout for your calves and glutes. Make sure you are wearing proper athletic shoes to reduce stress on your ankles and knees, and keep good posture as you go up and down the stairs. The Mayo Clinic suggests just stepping up on one stair with your left foot, taking a deep breath, then stepping up with your right foot, and then stepping down again with your left, and repeating for as long as you’d like. Or, for an even greater challenge, you can try walking up and down the entire set of stairs several times. However, keep in mind that climbing stairs is not a good idea for anyone who has knee problems or any issues with balance or arthritis.
- Try Some Planks
Want to strengthen your core? Challenge yourself by trying some planks. Start by laying flat on the floor with your face down and then lifting yourself up to balance on your forearms and your toes. Try to keep your glutes tucked in so you create a nice, straight line. Hold the plank as long as you can, then give yourself a break and then try it a few more times. If this is too challenging, you can also try putting your hands on a chair and leaning at an angle to engage your abs. Your abs will thank you!
- Create a Cardio Circuit
No one wants to jog in place in your living room for 30 minutes, so to keep things interesting, try doing a variety of different cardio exercises for a 30 to 60 seconds at a time and then switching things up. You can try jogging in place, doing jumping jacks, step touching from side to side, jumping rope, marching, or doing little football runs through pretend tires. Here are some more ideas you can try. Get creative!
- Practice Yoga
Dr. Richard Bisceglie, a naprapathic practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says practicing yoga is one of the best things you can do to improve your immune function. And luckily, there are lots of online yoga classes you can try these days. Here are six simple yoga postures you can try to boost your immune system.
- Do Wall Sits
Wall sits are a full lower body workout that you can do almost anywhere in your house. Simply stand up with your back flat against the wall and lower yourself down until your knees are at a 90-degree angle with your hips. Keep your weight in your heels, and stay there as long as you can. Your legs will probably start quivering, but keep holding on as long as you can! For beginners, try to hold for at least 10 seconds and build up to 30 seconds at a time. For more advanced exercisers, try doing 30 to 60 seconds at a time, taking a break, and doing three sets.
- Use Household Objects Instead of Weights
Don’t have any handheld weights at home? There are lots of household objects you can use instead to add resistance to your workouts. Just make sure you use an item that is easy to hold such as a gallon of milk (which weighs about 8 pounds), a 92 fl. oz bottle of laundry detergent (which weighs 6 pounds), a 5 lb. bag of potatoes or apples, or for beginners, try a small bag of rice in each hand (which weigh about 1 pound each). Then you can use these for a variety of exercises such as bicep curls, overhead presses, lateral arm raises, etc.
- Try Tai Chi
If you’re an older adult who can’t do as much jumping or strenuous activity, you might want to try some online tai chi classes from home. Tai chi is like a moving meditation, with slow, gentle movements, and it has been shown to improve balance, cognitive functioning, and strength. And tai chi has also been proven to be an effective tool for reducing stress and anxiety – which is especially useful during this stressful time.
- Decompress Your Spine
Are you experiencing lower back pain? Dr. Mitchell Katz, a chiropractor at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says prolonged sitting and inactivity can aggravate your lower back, but luckily, there are some easy stretches you can try at home to relieve compression on your spine. Try sitting off the edge of a bench or a bed while supporting your torso on your fully extended arms. Or you can sit on a chair and support yourself on the armrests. Hold yourself suspended for 10-15 seconds with a 30 second rest, followed by another 10 to 15 second self-traction. Do this periodically when prolonged sitting and see if it makes you feel better. (If you need additional guidance, Dr. Katz is also available for select in-person appointments).