The coronavirus epidemic is turning our lives upside down. So, it might seem silly to complain about missing something as trivial as a daily workout.
But for millions of Americans, adjusting to life without a gym is no small matter. How can you stay fit when you may be locked up at home for weeks – or months?
“The best way to stay fit during this challenging time is to put a focus on simply moving as much as you can,” says Nick Briney, an Overland Park, Kansas-based senior personal training manager at Life Time.
Briney says one way to prevent sliding into inactivity during the coronavirus lockdown is to use a fitness tracking device that records the total number of steps you take throughout the day.
“While this isn't 100% accurate, it is great way to put a quantitative measure on your total activity level,” he says.
Many phones also have built-in apps that can track steps. Or, you can download a free fitness app that will do the job.
“A solid goal should be shooting for 10,000 steps a day to help you achieve an 'active' day,” Briney says.
How to stay in shape - beyond simple steps
Beyond simply tracking your steps, it’s important to stick to a more challenging routine of moderate to vigorous exercise. Briney recommends such activity on between three and five days each week.
Jess Swedberg, an Oak Park, Illinois-based coach and global fitness manager for Orangetheory Fitness, says you should schedule workouts daily, so you will hold yourself accountable.
"Make yourself a priority and schedule some time -- whether it’s bright and early in the morning, during your lunch break or at the end of the day," she says.
If you need a little motivation and guidance, Swedberg suggests virtual workouts. Orangetheory Fitness has created "Orangetheory At Home" workouts, where members use OTbeat heart rate monitors and connect them to the Orangetheory mobile app so they can track heart rate, calories and more.
For cardio workouts, Swedberg encourages you to pick an activity you enjoy. “This will not only benefit your physical health, but can also help improve mental health,” she says.
If you are stuck at home and cannot get out, you can still get in a good cardio workout, Swedberg says.
“If you’re limited on space, performing intervals of jumping jacks, burpees or high knees can do the trick,” she says.
Briney agrees that even without a gym, you can stay active. For example, the weather is warming in many places, so take your exercise outside.
“Running, walking and cycling are all great ways to enjoy the great outdoors and get your heart rate up as well,” Briney says.
For weight training, Briney recommends using resistance bands, dumbbells or kettle bells. If you don’t have them already, order a set from Amazon or another retailer. You can also get a good workout with exercises that use your own body weight.
Swedberg says you can also improvise if you don’t have weights at hand: “Grab something in your household -- laundry detergent, or maybe even your child!”
Keeping exercise fun
Even in the best of times, just 1 in 5 adults get enough physical activity, and 31 million adults 50 and older get no activity beyond that of daily living, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
So, it’s important to get moving, even in difficult times such as these. Briney says your exercise routine doesn’t always have to be intense to yield benefits.
“Something as simple as an extra-long walk each day will do a lot for anyone's health and fitness when consistently done on a regular basis,” he says.
He also suggests taking all aspects of your workout routine outside, at least occasionally.
“Find a park bench or set of steps to use as a prop for push-ups, step ups or even run some stairs if you find a good set,” Briney says.
The important thing is to keep exercise fun, consistent and intentional, Briney says.
“Simply staying focused on movement for the sake of your mental and physical health is the ultimate goal,” he says.