Tips for getting the activity you need—anywhere
As always, it’s important to be safe, wear good footwear, start slowly, and give your muscles and tendons time to adapt to any new activity. Always seek your physician’s advice 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. And if you feel pain during an activity, STOP.
Get outside as much as possible. Unless your area is under a stay-at-home order or you need to remain in quarantine, try to exercise outside as much as possible. Take a walk, jog, or ride a bike outside, just remember to wear a mask and/or maintain a safe distance from others. The fresh air and sunshine will provide a further boost to your mental health.
Keep your workouts interesting. Watch your favorite streaming show or listen to a podcast or some great music while working out at home or in a hotel room. While walking, explore a new area in your neighborhood or catch up with a friend on the phone to keep things from getting stale. Or try activity video games or “exergames” that simulate dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or tennis. These can be great alternatives if you’re unable to participate in the real thing.
Walk in a new way. Immerse yourself in the full experience of walking outdoors by adding a mindfulness element. Notice the smell of the air, the variety of flowers and trees and the feel of the sun or the wind as you move. Bringing your attention to these things can give your conscious mind a break from your worries and unleash your creativity. You might find new ideas and solutions coming to you when you weren’t even aware you were working on them. If you find you need to up 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. Always wanted to try barre exercise, line dancing, cardio funk, or HIIT (high-intensity interval training)? Find a free video online, subscribe to one of the many online classes available, or download an app to guide you through home workouts (Video). Many people find they are more comfortable trying something new when no one else is watching. You just might find your new passion! Try boxing, Pilates, or yoga. Don’t be intimidated to try something new and refine your online search to be more specific to your needs, like ‘yoga for over 50’, ‘golf-specific exercises’ or ‘basic Pilates for beginners’. There are many new, and often free, classes being posted daily. Just remember to avoid causing pain.
Join the kids. Play catch or tag, go for a bike ride, shoot baskets, or pass the soccer ball with your kids. Taking the focus away from schoolwork or chores and playing together can even help repair a strained relationship.
Miss the gym? Create a home workout area. If you have space available, designate an inviting area of your home to exercise and keep your equipment handy. Try using resistance bands, water bottles, or your own body weight to perform resistance exercises. You could start by doing push-ups against the wall then progress to doing them against the kitchen counter, the coffee table, and finally the floor. Have stairs in your home? Stair climbing is an efficient strength training activity. Keep one foot on a step and step up and down several times (or try stepping up two steps for an even tougher workout).
Build more movement into your day
Many of us are spending more and more time sitting—watching TV, working at the computer, being on Zoom meetings. But even when you’re working at home, you can still find ways to incorporate more movement into your day. Try to think of physical activity as a lifestyle choice rather than as a designated event. Getting up every 30 minutes for a quick bout of activity can add up over the day.
- Intersperse household chores into your sitting time: vacuum a room, scrub a sink, do some yard work, or wipe down your appliances.
- Move around while you are on a call, stand for an online meeting, do squats or lunges while you’re waiting for a meeting to start, or jumping jacks in front of the TV during the credits or commercial breaks.
- Try ‘microwave exercises’ (short bursts of movement) like countertop push-ups while you are waiting for the kettle to boil or toast to pop up.
When circumstances make it difficult for you to partake in your favorite forms of exercise, it’s normal to feel a little frustrated. Don’t beat yourself up but keep experimenting with new workouts until you find something that you enjoy. And if you feel your motivation to get moving start to flag, focus on how much better you’ll feel after even a little exercise.
It also helps to give yourself an extra treat as a reward for sticking with a new exercise program. Take a long, hot bubble bath, for example, make a fruit smoothie, or call a friend or family member. And remember: the healthy habits you build now can help you to stay healthier and happier far beyond this global pandemic.