Spending more time at home lately? Don’t let self-quarantining sabotage your health goals. One of the keys to keeping your immune system strong is exercise. So now more than ever, it’s imperative that you stay active.
But if you’re used to taking classes in a gym, you might feel unmotivated to stay active at home. After all, being in hibernation tends to make one feel sluggish, not to mention alienated or anxious, which can also reduce the motivation to get in shape or stay fit.
Or, perhaps, you’re not sure how to stay fit at home without having instructors and your peers around to feed off their energy. And maybe you think that because your home lacks a plethora of gym equipment, it’s not possible to get a good workout.
But the truth is, you really don’t need any equipment to strengthen your musculoskeletal system. And you don’t need expensive cardio machines to keep your blood circulation flowing like a swift-moving river. All you need is some self-discipline and a little motivation.
Why it’s Necessary to Exercise at Home
Speaking of motivation, these days, all the motivation you should need is knowing that there’s a clear link between physical activity and immune function.
Before we get into some exercises you can do at home, let’s briefly cover think link.
In this review published in Journal of Sport & Health Science, the researchers say that even though exercise immunology is a relatively new area, with 90% of papers published after 1990, for over 100 years, scientists have made a connection between exercise and immune function.
For example, in 1902, one scientist provided evidence that changes in white blood cell counts in Boston marathon runners paralleled those seen in certain diseased conditions. What exactly does that mean? It implies that you don’t need to train like an Olympic athlete in order to support your immune system. In fact, very strenuous exercise (such as running a marathon) can create an inflammatory response in the body that can last several hours.
But moderate exercise (not too much, not too little) reduces systemic inflammation and may help prevent acute respiratory illness (something that much of the world is fearful of developing in these uncertain times).
Adequate exercise seems to be beneficial for gut health, too. “Recent studies indicate that exercise and physical fitness diversifies the gut microbiota, enhancing the number of benign microbial communities,” says the study in Journal of Sport & Health Science.
Sitting the Equivalent of a Pack a Day
If you need more convincing of why these days, it’s more vital than ever to stay fit, think back to a few years ago when the following health warning was issued, “Sitting is the new smoking.”
In this 2018 study, researchers declared that Western populations spend an average of 8.5 hours--roughly 60 hours per week--sedentary. These days, with millions of people urged to stay home because of COVID-19, it’s likely that sedentary hours per day will increase. Needless to say, the researchers mention several reasons why a sedentary lifestyle promotes chronic health problems.
But it doesn’t have to be so.
Break it Up, Break it Up
And even if you’re fortunate enough to be swamped with work at home, the good news is you don’t have to spend a lot of time working out to get fit.
As a matter of fact, some studies (like this one) suggest that short bouts of physical activity are more advantageous than one single, longer session.
With so many fitness and yoga apps to choose from, it’s never been easier to exercise in the comfort of your own home.
But if you’re looking for a basic primer on exercising at home, here’s how to get the most bang for your buck, with the least equipment required.
Short Exercise Routine at Home
There are three primary components to physical fitness: muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.
Rather than spend a lot of time on every component, there’s one fantastic exercise that combines all three components. It’s a simple movement called “The Hindu Pushup.”
If you’re familiar with yoga, the Hindu Pushup is basically a downward dog, transitioning into an upward-facing dog. Don’t know your downward dog from your upward dog?
Here’s an illustration, courtesy of WorkoutLabs.com:
If you’re at a beginner or intermediate level and the “plank” position (the pause at the lowered phase of a pushup) is too difficult, you can drop to your knees before transitioning into the upward dog (bottom illustration).
The Hindu Pushup is a compound exercise, meaning, it engages the whole body.
If you’re stuck at home all day, set a timer on your smartphone to go off every 90-120 minutes and perform 10-20 Hindu Pushups as soon as the timer goes off. Those stiff, sedentary muscles will feel loose in no time.
Exercise While Watching TV
If you’re sitting at the computer for 8-10 hours or more a day, the last thing you want to do is spend more time sitting in front of the TV. While you’re binge-watching your favorite show, one basic exercise if you’re a novice exerciser, is walking in place.
While walking in place, try to lift your knees as high as you comfortably can. Set a timer for 5 minutes. After walking in place for 5 minutes, stay standing upright and perform 12 squats. If you don’t have good balance, place a chair next to you that you can hold onto. To properly perform a squat, keep your knees over your ankles and your chin parallel to the floor (you can keep looking at the TV) and imagine that you’re about to sit on a toilet. Your back should be flat. To improve your circulation, try to keep your arms at heart level.
Here’s an illustration of a basic squat:
When you come back to a standing position, regardless of your fitness level, thrust your hips forward and squeeze your glutes instead of passively standing back up.
And if your cardiovascular stamina is strong and your joints are pain-free, take your squat to the next level by jumping up in the air immediately after sinking all the way down into a squat. And immediately upon landing and resetting your feet, sink down into a squat.
If you’re watching a half-hour show, perform the Hindu Pushups or Squat/Jump Squat routine a minimum of two times. For a 60-minute program, increase the number of short exercise bouts to four. And for a feature film, shoot for 6-8 bouts.
The King of all Exercises
In the weightlifting world, deadlifts are known as the king of all exercises. That’s because this compound movement (again, this means that involves several different muscle groups) targets the largest muscles in the body: the hamstrings, and glutes in the lower body, as well as all the major muscles of the upper body.
But you don’t have to look like this to perform this highly-beneficial exercise:
Instead, simply find an item, or two items that weigh approximately the same (two jugs of water or milk). The difference between a squat and a deadlift is that when performing the latter, you’re not bending your knees as much as the former. With a completely flat back, looking slightly straight ahead (not straight down at your toes), reach your booty back and bend your knees. To come up to a standing position, powerfully thrust your hips forward. Repeat 15-20 times.
Photo courtesy of BootyLabInc.com
3 Exercises For The Homebound: Conclusion
For some people, not having to keep track of several exercises keeps things simple and helps stick to an exercise routine. Sticking with these 3 exercises will keep your body--and immune system--fit while you’re stuck at home.