Keeping fit amidst a pandemic

Author: Hayley Alexander

Sure, it’s a bummer when that race you’ve been training for gets cancelled, if not postponed. And yes, no doubt it sucks when you’re not able to go to your favourite exercise class, especially when you were just starting to see some progress. But that doesn’t mean you should sit out of the rest of the COVID-19 situation and wait for everything to get back to normal.

 

First of all, none of us can be sure when that will be and secondly, sedentary behaviour, which is sitting or lying around all day, might be as lethal as smoking cigarettes according to the UK’s National Health Services (NHS). 

 

Fortunately, where there’s a will there’s a way – and when it comes to fitness, there are plenty of ways to keep up your training and make sure you’re hitting your physical activity targets, which should be at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, according to the World Health Organization . Essentially this means committing to exercising for 30 minutes, five days of the week, which can be broken down into shorter bouts of 10 to 15-minute activity periods, twice a day. 

 

Ideally, for additional health benefits, one should aim to increase this to 300 minutes per week, doing a combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activities, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week or more.  It may sound like a lot, but it’s not that hard if you break it down and create a schedule that you can work around, depending on your goals and what you were used to doing before. 

 

With that, here are some ideas to help you hit your targets:

 

Firstly, decide what days and times you would like to exercise – and schedule it as an appointment with reminders. Maybe you can start your day with a 20-minute bodyweight workout, including core exercises, squats, push-ups and stretches, or go for a walk or later in the day if it’s safe or you have space at home to do so. Otherwise, stick with skipping.

 

There’s certainly no shortage of free online programmes and it’s worthwhile downloading a few different fitness apps, or signing up for a challenge, according to your fitness level and preferences. If you have basic home equipment such as dumbbells, fitness bands, a small trampoline, skipping rope or whatever else, you can even design your own home circuit to do every other day – choosing three of four exercises, repeating for a number of rounds (sets) depending on your energy.  

 

For example; do three sets of the following exercises (30 seconds per exercise, 30 seconds rest between sets):

 

  • Overhead press (using dumbbells) 

  • Push-ups 

  • Squats 

  • Skipping

Or, 

 

  • Bridges

  • Plank hold

  • Rows

  • Burpees. 

 

As mentioned previously, these are just examples and there are hundreds of basic to advanced exercise combinations you can select from to make sure that within a week you target all your major muscle groups and get your heart rate up. 

 

It’s also essential to keep up with aerobic activities like walking, cycling or jogging. Unless you’re in quarantine, if you’re working remotely, try to get outside for some fresh air (even if it’s just through a window or out on a balcony). You an also put on some music, dance to your own jam and encourage the family to join you.  

 

The most important thing is just not to sit around all day because this can increase the risk of depression according to a study published in International Journal of Behavioural Medicine. Instead, use this an opportunity to make the best of a bad situation, get your endorphins going and who knows, perhaps you’ll even find that you prefer your home exercise regime to the luxury of physically going to classes or training at the gym again. 

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