Woman doing sit-ups in living room.

Move More Month: Tips for being active at home

Every April, the American Heart Association celebrates Move More Month to try getting people to improve their heart health through exercise. But perhaps you haven’t exercised in a while and don’t know where to start. Or finding time to get to the gym is difficult.

Does that mean Move More Month is off? Should you resign yourself to spending this April slouched on the couch, bingeing the latest true crime documentary series that everyone’s talking about online, getting up only to grab another soda?

The answer is simple: NO!

Woman working out at home watching fitness instructor.“Some people think that you have to go to the gym to exercise, or you have to be in shape to exercise, so that creates a lot of fears, especially for people who have not been exercising regularly,” said Hong Ji, an exercise physiologist at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

“Exercise is something you can do through your daily activity,” she said. “It can be done nearly anywhere. You don’t have to pay for a gym membership or spend lots of money on fancy equipment.

“Now is a great opportunity to change our lifestyle in positive ways by moving more. Be creative. Come up with some fun activities and games. You can create your own plan, like a ‘14- to 21-Day Home Quarantine Exercise Plan’ or something like that.”

According to Ji, you don’t have to get hung up on doing what we traditionally think of as exercise. Increasing your activity level in any way can help improve your health.

And if you have the time but can’t afford the cost, a free gym membership might be just a phone call away. It isn’t widely known, but seniors can get a free gym membership through a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplemental plan. So, if you are 65 years of age or older, you should call your insurance and ask if your plan provides this benefit.

Tips for moving more

Any minute spent off the couch is generally better for your health than any minute spent on the couch. So, if you’re watching television, try getting up and walking around during commercial breaks to increase your steps, or do a quick set of squats or push-ups. Every little bit counts.

  • A breath of fresh air: A great benefit of spring is the rising temperatures after a cold winter. If you can do it while still observing physical distancing, you should get outside when the weather is nice. “Whether walking your dog, strolling with loved ones or riding a bike around, you should breathe more fresh air,” Ji said. “We all need that.” Now is the time to begin yardwork and planting your garden, too.
  • Spring cleaning: Sweeping floors, dusting furniture, eliminating clutter – cleaning the house will have you reaching high, bending low and everything in between. And you just might feel a little better about being stuck at home when it’s all clean and orderly.
  • Get cooking: Leave behind all those recipes that boast how simple and easy they are. You’ve got time to really put in some work in the kitchen. Get the whole family involved. Recipes that require a lot of love and craft also typically require some work. Maybe try some cooking technique you’ve never tried before. You’ll feel better having spent some time putting in physical effort, and you’ll hopefully end up with something delicious and non-processed to enjoy.
  • Stretch: Stretching is a form of exercise. Daily stretching can help decrease pain and stiffness; improve posture, balance, flexibility and range of motion and improve your overall quality of life. “Stretching is one of the best things you can do to take care of yourself,” Ji said. “It’s good to stretch and relieve muscle tension.” You should stretch as a way to cool down after every workout, also.
  • Play: You can move around solely for the purpose of enjoying yourself. You don’t need any productive goals to meet. If you have kids, you know that a good play session can top most workouts at the gym in terms of the energy you use.

Home exercise examples

Here are some simple exercises you can do, utilizing what you may already have in your house:

For lower body strength, do a 30-second chair stand a few times throughout the day: stand up from a sitting position, then sit down immediately, then stand up again. Repeat for 30 seconds or longer, depending on your fitness level.

For upper body strength, you can use canned foods or milk jugs as weights for upper body strength training, like biceps curls, triceps extensions or overhead presses.

Your computer can also be an important piece of workout equipment. There are tons of online fitness apps and places to find online exercise videos.

“Let’s all move more and live more,” Ji said. “It is more important now than ever!”

About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is the proudest father and a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise, Heart Health