Personal trainer and fitness expert Majed Al Hamad on how to exercise while isolated due to the coronavirus.
In countries all around the world there are unprecedented and extensive social distancing policies currently in force. The spread of coronavirus means most people are spending all of their time at home.
For those used to exercising frequently, whether outside or at the gym, self-isolation means fewer opportunities to do so. And for others who got most of their exercise from walking to and from work, for example, or from playing sports, there has been a drastic cut in hours spent working out.
Why you must exercise while isolated because of the virus
Just as concerning is the higher temptation to be sedentary at home. Surrounded by sofas, chairs and beds, it can be tempting to see the pandemic out lying down. There is no question that these self-isolation and social distancing measures are absolutely vital in our collective fight to slow the spread of this devastating pandemic, but we must all take extra steps to ensure we’re getting enough exercise too.
Exercising regularly isn’t just important to maintain fitness levels or to ensure we don’t gain weight, it’s also vital for our mental health. Keeping a positive outlook is essential during one of the most challenging times most people have faced. Exercise also boosts the immune system, and helps people become less susceptible to infection. The fitter you are, the more chance you have of fighting off any infection, whether it’s Covid-19 or something more recognisable, like a common cold.
According to the Lancet, prolonged physical inactivity is costing 5.3 million lives every year at a global level – and that was before any social distancing or isolation measures were implemented. It has never been more important to exercise regularly, take care of your physical and mental health and ensure that you are in the best form possible during this health crisis.
How much exercise do you really need?
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, adults should do a minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise every week that is moderately intensive. Alternatively, global recommendations state that adults can do 1.25 hours of intense exercise a week at a minimum. In addition to these accumulated bouts of exercise, adults should also carry out muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
Doing any kind of activity or exercise is better than nothing at all. But doing more gives you more direct mental health and physical benefits. Depending on where you live, there are different restrictions on outdoor activity. In the UK currently, everyone is recommended to take one bout of outdoor exercise per day. This can be running, walking or cycling and I would recommend a moderate to vigorous pace depending on your fitness level and normal regime. Make the most of our outdoor time, and try the following tips for staying active while at home the rest of the time:
1.Sit down less – it sounds obvious but it’s easy to let hours slip by, particularly if you’re working from home from a computer. Take regular breaks from sitting and walk around the house, play with your children or a pet and spend a few minutes on your feet.
Switch between sitting down and standing up as much as possible and as often as possible. For example, you could fashion a stand-up desk area in a different part of your home. Walk round your house, flat or apartment, go out onto your balcony if you can or into your garden or yard. If you have no outside space, that’s OK – as long as you walk around your living space every 30 minutes for a couple of minutes then you’re taking the right steps.
2.Use the stairs – if you have a staircase, make use of it! Stair climbing is a super-efficient way to boost fitness levels. Just six weeks of three 30 second fast stair climbs can improve your fitness. Indoor staircases also lend themselves to other kinds of stair exercises to try.
If you live in a flat or apartment, use the communal stairs as much as possible, but be sure to maintain social distancing measures and avoid touching the handrail or any other hard surface.
3. Use your bodyweight to increase strength – home-based strength exercises using your bodyweight are just as important as aerobic exercise for health, according to a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
There are loads of resources online with indoor bodyweight exercises to follow. Have a search on YouTube for free videos for people of all ages and do a minimum of two bodyweight sessions every week. The kinds of exercises to incorporate into your sessions sit-ups, planks and press-ups. Do between two and four sets of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise, with a two-minute rest between them.
4. Dance around your house – dancing is the ideal way to get the blood pumping, maintain your fitness and enjoy yourself – all in one go. It’s easy to get up to moderate or vigorous exercising standards, and you will be glad of the endorphin release during the challenging lockdown. And the best thing about this form of exercise, it can be to any music you fancy. Whether it’s rock, electro pop or traditional Irish folk, flick on your streaming device of choice and get moving.
5. Play more – if you have children or pets now is the time to wear them – and you – out with lots more playing. It’s a great opportunity to get everyone moving and to bond with the family, whether they’re two legged or four legged. Kids and dogs particularly will love more attention and time, and you will be increasing your activity without even noticing just by keeping them happy.
The most important exercise advice I can give you for the lockdown is to do something! It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re moving. Self-isolating will necessarily mean more sedentary time for lots of people, and there’s the danger of losing motivation too. These suggestions are just some of the possibilities available for exercising at home and are useful because they don’t need much space or any speciality equipment. But the end goal must be to move as much as possible and aim to get yourself out of breath a few times every day.