With gyms closed across the country, here’s how you can use your home to help you stay fit and healthy.
Staying fit and active during these uncertain times is incredibly important. Even if you’re not a gym-fanatic or an occasional marathon runner, the activities and interactions of our daily lives provide short bursts of exercise that we wouldn’t even consider to be ‘exercise’.
We take for granted that walking to the train station, moving from a desk to a meeting or even enjoying a lunchtime stroll to grab a bite, keeps us on the move. Although not ‘high-impact’ (unless, of course, you’re running for the train) these daily activities help to keep our bodies mobile.
Now, as we stay at home as much as possible, for many of us our commutes have become a matter of steps from bed to desk, and so we must make a point of factoring exercise into our daily routines. Keeping active during this time is incredibly important, not just because it helps to protect and boost our immune system, helps keep our mental health in check, and allows us to get a more restful night’s sleep, but also because of its overall effect on our mood, and in turn, our motivation levels and ability to work productively.
You probably already know and appreciate the benefits of exercise. The question is: how can you keep on top of your fitness game from your home? Fortunately, the modern world offers us an abundance of digital options, from live-streamed workout classes to Zoom yoga sessions.
However, space is an issue for many, and as we try to turn our homes into an all-encompassing environment where we can work, eat, relax and work out, learning to make the most of what we have is an important lesson that we're all discovering. Here are our top seven tips on how to use your living space to help keep you fit, active and motivated.
1. Clear space
We’re starting with a simple one that's easily overlooked. If you’re following an online class, it’s all too easy to set your laptop up and go. But, taking the time to prepare your environment will help you exercise more effectively and relax mentally. Move furniture to give yourself more room (think of it as a warm-up) and remove anything breakable such as vases or ornaments.
If you’ve got enough natural daylight, consider removing overhead lightbulbs, particularly if you’re tall and are going to be jumping or raising your arms above your head. Knowing that you won’t break anything will allow you to focus on exercising instead of keeping your movements restricted and half of your mind on trying not to wipe out that lamp in the corner. If you’ve got a slippery floor, why not use a yoga mat or doormat to help improve your grip.
2. View your furniture in a new way
Now is the time to discover all the ways in which your furniture can be used. There’s a whole range of exercises that can be made even more effective using basic household furniture. Here are our favourites:
• Triceps dips and incline push-ups using your sofa or bed – a great way to work out while watching TV. For triceps dips, simply place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of the sofa or bed with your legs in front of you and lower your body in reps. Push-ups or sit-ups can be done with either your feet or hands raised on the bed, depending on how adventurous you’re feeling!
• Sit-to-stand squats from a chair – a great form of resistance training that you can do while checking your emails. If you’ve got a sturdy chair, try holding yourself up with your palms flat to the seat and stretching your legs out in front of you (this may take some practice).
• Push-ups against a wall or kitchen counter – another easy form of resistance training.
• Lunges or single step-ups on the stairs – if you have stairs, then this a great way to stretch your legs. For added cardio, try running up them a few times.
3. Make your own weights
What do tins of beans, bags of rice, flour and bottled drinks have in common? They all make great dumbbell substitutes. Put them together in a carrier bag and you’ve got yourself a make-shift kettlebell. Pets and children also make collaborative, heavier alternatives. Safely and willingly, of course.
4. Get creative with outdoor space
Weather permitting, working out in the garden is a fantastic way of spending time outdoors and staying healthy. Try running around the garden or making an obstacle course to encourage the whole family to join in. Empty flowerpots, sticks, anything that you may have lying around the house that can be arranged on the ground – think football-style, fast feet drills. If you don’t have a lot of space, there are still things you can do.
Take inspiration from Elisha Nochomovitz of Toulouse, France, who proved that creativity and exercise know no bounds by running a marathon on his seven-metre balcony. He is one of many who have done extraordinary things with limited space – skipping is also a great high-intensity exercise that requires very little room.
5. Use a standing desk
Standing desks have become all the rage in trendy office spaces for a while now, with the health benefits of standing for long periods as opposed to sitting widely acknowledged. If you don’t have a standing desk at home, try improvising – an ironing board can work well, or even a stack of books on a kitchen counter. If standing all day isn’t for you, still try to move as much as possible. A lot of people naturally find it easier to walk and talk, so if you’re taking a lot of calls, you can pace as much as you like without annoying your colleagues.
6. Turn your garage into a home gym
If you have exercise equipment at home and a space that is rarely used, now would be a great time to have a clear-out and consider moving all your equipment into one place. Creating a home gym will help you feel as though you have a designated place to work out, the closest thing to actually going to the gym while restrictions are in place. Even if you don’t have professional equipment, but you still have space that you’d like to utilise, you can use our previous tips for makeshift weights and routines.
7. Factor in relaxing exercise and set the scene
Keeping fit at home doesn’t just mean high-intensity workouts and resistance training. Gentler exercises such as yoga, Pilates and aerobics are all great ways of strengthening and stretching while allowing us to clear our minds and relax.
Make the most of this time and try to make your home as much like a yoga studio as you can: dim the lights, use candles, regulate the temperature and find a relaxing playlist. Many of us are living in close quarters with family and friends, so if possible, try and let your cohabiters know that you’re taking some time to recharge and that you don’t want to be disturbed. Just half an hour of meditation a day can help to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety and gives us much-needed time away from work, technology and the news.
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