If you’re anything like me, 2020 has been a year of packing on a few extra pounds.
OK – I’ll admit it: I’ve gained twelve pounds since this time last year!
Hey, it’s easy to get out of your routine when your gym is closed and exercising outdoors is limited.
I’m still exercising but I find the consistency just isn’t there.
Maybe you can relate?
I hope you’ve done better than I have with your exercise routine during this crazy year.
It’s tempting to focus on a couch routine, working out your thumb on the TV remote.
Thing is, exercise is not an option for our overall long-term brain and body health.
Exercising is such a crucial way to keep your immune system healthy, boost your mood, and stave off chronic illness.
Sometimes you just gotta get creative, and there are many options to keep exercising, even when you’re stuck indoors.
Aerobic activity often requires lots of space, but it doesn’t have to. “Just stepping in place is a simple and effective workout,” notes Harvard fitness expert and certified fitness instructor Michele Stanten.
“Put on music and lift your knees high, or step and kick. If you have more space, step side-to-side or forward and back,” she says. To increase your heart rate, Stanten advises raising your arms up and down as you march.
For a more structured workout, exercise to a free workout video online. You’ll find endless options (everything from low-impact kickboxing to seated dance moves) by searching on YouTube for cardio workouts that apply to your needs, such as “cardio exercise for diabetes.”
Other ideas for indoor workouts: walk laps around your home, put on music and dance with a partner, or play “Simon Says” with your grandkids via video. “Lead the kids with arm raises or knee lifts,” Stanten suggests. “Or have the kids take the lead and call out the moves. Make it fun.”
You don’t need large gym machines to build your muscles. Several tools can do the job just as effectively. One is a small weight — a dumbbell or household item (such as a soup can, water bottle, or rolls of coins). Start with a 1- or 2-pound weight and increase the load as it becomes easier to lift.
Another way to create muscle resistance is with a large, long, stretchy resistance band. I found some great, cheap options that have hundreds of 5-star reviews on Amazon with a simple search: exercise resistance bands. My wife Cindy found a great pilates home machine and has found she likes it now better than her old workout at the gym.
Even your own body weight can provide enough resistance to strengthen muscles:
Stair climbing. I’ve also started climbing our stairs at home in sets of five.
Standing planks. Stand facing a wall, 12 to 24 inches away. Keeping your body straight, lean forward with your forearms against the wall. Hold for 30 seconds.
Bridges. Lie on the floor, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, and raise your hips until your back and upper legs form a straight line to your knees. Keep your upper back on the floor.
Standing leg lifts. Hold on to a counter, then repeatedly raise your leg to the side or to the back.
“Repeat each exercise eight to 10 times for a set, and do two or three sets. Add more exercises or more repetitions as you improve,” Stanten advises.
Simple stretching in the comfort of your own home requires little space, and you can approach a routine in two ways.
Quadriceps stretch. While standing up or lying on your side, pull your heel up to your buttocks, feeling a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch with the other leg.
Seated hamstring stretch. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Straighten your right leg and point the toes on your right foot to the ceiling, then hinge forward from your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, then do the same with the left leg.
You’ll Nail It If You Focus On These 3 kinds of exercise for your home workout routine:
Aerobic exercise. This gets your heart and lungs pumping and triggers a cascade of long-term health benefits for blood flow, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, metabolism, and mood. Plus, it brings a surge in the body’s “feel good” chemicals. Your goal should be at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, but any amount of daily aerobic activity — even a few minutes — will help.
Strength training. This keeps the muscles and bones strong and reduces blood sugar levels. Do a 15-minute strength training workout two or three times per week, or do a few moves every day.
Stretching. This keeps the muscles flexible and improves range of motion. You can stretch the muscles every day after just a few minutes of activity (like marching in place) to get blood flowing to the muscles to make them pliable; or you can stretch the muscles after an exercise workout, when the muscles are already primed.
Want more guidance?
If working out at home still feels challenging, consider getting guidance from a personal trainer via video chat (such as FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype). “A trainer is great at modifying exercises and offering alternatives to accommodate health conditions,” Stanten notes.
Look for a certified trainer who has experience with clients who have the kinds of health challenges you have, such as arthritis. The American Council on Exercise (www.acefitness.org) has a free tool on its website to help you locate a certified trainer in your area.
Also, it goes without saying that before starting any new exercise routine that’s more strenuous than what you’re used to, get the green light from your doctor.
So I say enough is enough! Let’s hope we have an effective safe vaccine soon, but in the meantime:
Who’s with me?
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