Due to COVID-19, most gyms across the country are closed. And even when gyms and fitness studios reopen, some people – especially those who are most vulnerable to potentially contracting the virus – may be weary of returning anytime soon. So, what can you do to keep your body in motion, stay in shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle without going to the gym? Thankfully, there’s a number of exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home with limited equipment to help maintain mobility, strengthen muscles and increase your balance.
Your core muscles – those around the abs, back and pelvis – help connect your upper and lower body and are essential to everyday activities. By keeping these muscles strong, you help strengthen your whole body and will also enhance your overall balance and stability. Two simple exercises that help strengthen core muscles include abdominal crunches and the plank; all you need is a floor mat.
- Lie on your mat, starting on your back. With your knees bended, firmly place your feet on the floor, keeping them hip-width apart. Once your head and spine are aligned, tighten your core muscles and place your arms across your chest. Slowly lift your upper back off the floor while tucking in your chin and keeping your lower back, pelvis, and feet grounded. Pause for one to two seconds and then slowly lower your upper back to the floor. For beginners, start with one set of 8–12 reps; do two or three sets if you’re more advanced.
- There are several different variations of the plank, but for starters, begin with a standard forearm plank. Grab your mat and lie face down with your legs extended, elbows bent, and your forearms and palms flat on the floor. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart and that your elbows are directly under your shoulders and shoulder-width apart. Then, engage your abs and lift your body while keeping your forearms firmly planted on the ground. As you press the floor away from your body, keep your core muscles tight and try to keep a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
- For a side plank, begin by lying on your left side with your hips, knees and feet stacked. Place your left hand on the floor and lift your body away from the ground while tightening your core. Lift your hips and right arm up toward the ceiling. Your body should form a straight, angled line from your head to your heels. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.
You don’t need fancy weight machines for an effective leg workout. In fact, you can use your own body weight, a chair or resistance band to work your calves, inner thighs, glutes and quads. Here are two exercises to try:
- Stand with your head facing forward, your chest out and feet shoulder-width apart, or slightly wider. Sit down into a squat and slightly bend your body forward. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground with your knees over your ankles and your head should stay facing forward. Press your weight into your heels and stand back up into the starting position. Squeeze your butt and keep your core tight as you stand. To help with balance, you can clasp your hands in front of your body. Do three sets of 10 squats.
- Forward Lunge
- Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your core tight and step forward with one leg. Lower your hips until both knees are bent about 90 degrees. Keep your front knee directly above your ankle and your back knee should hover right above the floor. Press into your front heel and drive back up into the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps on one side and then switch legs.
- For variations to the forward lunge, you can hold weights at your side or do walking lunges to help strengthen your balance. If you have knee issues, a reverse lunge may be easier.
There are many benefits of practicing yoga, including reducing stress and stretching and strengthening the muscles. For yoga at home, all you need is a yoga mat and access to an online yoga session. A variety of fitness companies offer subscription services to access streaming yoga workouts and there are also free yoga workouts online. With a little research, you can find an at-home yoga workout that’s right for you.
In addition to getting some fresh air, running is a great way to burn fat and develop lean muscle. If you’re not a runner, start out slow and use an app that helps build endurance through interval training and goal tracking. If you have a smart watch, or wearable fitness tracker, maximize your run by monitoring your distance, heart rate and calories burned.
Walking offers many health benefits, regardless of age or fitness level, ranging from curbing food cravings, promoting weight loss and easing joint pain. Additionally, walking also helps boost the immune system. According to Harvard Medical School, “a study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.” So, make it a goal to try and fit a walk into your weekly routine.
Clearly, physical activity of any kind is important – regardless if the gyms are open or closed. So, make an effort to include exercise in your weekly routine. At Coastal Orthopedics, it’s our mission to help patients live to their fullest. For more information or to speak to one of our orthopedic or sports medicine specialists, call us today at 941-792-1404 or request an appointment online.