Several months ago, I joined the majority of individuals who began doing everything from home. Sitting at my desk, I remember looking at my step count, disappointed at my numbers day after day. I suddenly missed my walks to the bus stop, moving between classrooms at school, and going to the gym. Realizing that these routines were no longer possible, I felt my fitness goals dwindling from reach.
Our previous blog, “Interview with Dr. Eva Norman: How She Stays Healthy During the 2020 Pandemic” discussed the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on our world, and Dr. Norman shared her strategies in maintaining health and wellness during this time. Focusing on the physical aspect of wellness, this article explores several ideas to help live an active life while staying safe at home.
1. Reach your step goals
- Embrace every opportunity to walk. Walk around your home, even if its within a small area. Consider certain house chores that involve moving around. Perhaps choose to take more trips, for example, while returning folded clothing from the laundry room to the closet or bringing groceries in from the car.
- Turn on the music. Whether at home or outdoors in your neighborhood, turning on the music you like can make walking even more enjoyable. Also, consider podcasts – many are free through Apple or Google Podcasts.
- Park further away. If you do have to leave your house for any reason (e.g. grocery store, pharmacy) park further from your destination so you can gain some extra steps!
2. Exercise without the gym
- Body weight exercises. Jumping jacks, push-ups, squats, sit-ups, heel raises, and more! No equipment or large amounts of space are needed to break a sweat. If you do a Google search of “body weight exercises”, the options are endless. Consider choosing five different exercises, and complete each for 1 minute. Rest as needed, then repeat 4 times for a quick 20-30 minute workout.
- Use what you have. Even without gym equipment, there are ways to progress your strength. Instead of weights, try using sturdy household items. For example – lunges holding laundry detergent, bicep curls with soup cans, or plank-hold wearing a backpack filled with books. If you have stairs, walk up and down repeatedly, with the option to take every other step for an added challenge.
- Find workouts online. Youtube is a great place to start for free guided exercise videos. Some search terms to try are “no equipment circuit”, “HIIT workout”, and “workout for your [insert any muscles you want]”.
- Get creative with TV time.1Do an exercise every commercial break or between every episode of your favorite Netflix show. It could be as simple as repeatedly standing up and sitting down on your couch!
3. Take breaks from work
- Set a timer. As a reminder to move, set a timer to 20 or 30 minutes. When it goes off, stand, stretch, or walk around for 1-2 minutes.2 One phone app I recommend is “Insight Timer” (iOS or Android), which includes a customizable timer, as well as guided meditations and music.
- Stand up every time you ___. If having a timer going off at you isn’t your thing, incorporate standing into something you already do regularly. For example, every time you take a phone call, every time you read an email or every time you send a text.
- Get up for lunch breaks. Use meal time as a chance to get some added movement. If you have the time, make food during your break rather than having it ready-to-eat. If you use the microwave or coffee-maker, walk around as you wait.3
Many of these ideas may seem small, or even silly, but remember that each action you take can add up to real change. Recent studies have shown that reaching as few as 4,400 steps per day has longterm positive impacts on health.4
Find out what works best for you and stick with it. It may help to write reminder notes, placing them in locations you often sit. Keep in mind the many benefits of physical activity for both the body and mind5 as motivation to continue adapting your at-home daily routines.
We would love to hear how you are using creativity to stay active at home. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
Crystal Jiang is a third year Doctor of Physical Therapy student at the University of Minnesota. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Southern California (USC), earning her B.S. in Neuroscience. While at USC, she was inspired to pursue physical therapy through her research experience at the Infant Neuromotor Control Lab, where she analyzed movement data and contributed to three published research articles.
Crystal also has 15 years of experience in contemporary and jazz dance, and has worked as a dance instructor and choreographer in Blaine, MN for the past 4 years. She hopes to continue working with dancers throughout her career as a physical therapist and has a strong interest in injury prevention education for competitive dancers and dance educators.
Outside of physical therapy and dance, Crystal enjoys staying active through strength training and high intensity interval training, spending time with friends and family, watching sports, and attending local concerts.
1Simon, Stacy. “Tips for Staying Healthy While Stuck at Home.” American Cancer Society, 19 Mar. 2020, www.cancer.org/latest-news/tips-for-staying-healthy-while-stuck-at-home.html.
2“Sitting and Standing at Work.” Cornell University Ergonomics Web, ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStand.html.
3Bumgardner, Wendy. “Hacks to Sit Less and Save Your Life.” Verywell Fit, 7 Feb. 2020, www.verywellfit.com/hacks-to-sit-less-and-save-your-life-3434976.
4“Do You Really Need to Take 10,000 Steps a Day for Better Health?” Harvard Health, Nov. 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/do-you-really-need-to-take-10000-steps-a-day-for-better-health.
5“#HealthyAtHome – Physical Activity.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 2020, www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome—physical-activity.