Every April, the American Heart Association celebrates Move More Month to try getting people to improve their heart health through exercise. However, the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has thrown a wrench into everyone’s ability to move about freely as we try to defeat the virus by isolating ourselves at home. The gym is off limits, and so are any non-essential activities and events that take us out into public, where we expose ourselves to risk.
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!
“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.
“We are all forced to change our life in a huge way now, and we are all likely staying home more. So, we should try to get more positive experiences out of this difficult time. 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.
Quarantine-friendly lifestyle 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, and doing it daily can help you achieve a lot of the benefits of exercise. “Stretching is one of the best things you can do to take care yourself,” Ji said. “Especially during this intense time, 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. Plus, any minute spent off the couch is generally better for your health than any minute spent on the couch.
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!”