Beginning or maintaining a regular physical activity routine is not always easy, and when a world pandemic gets thrown into the mix, it can make things even more challenging. Being active from home can be a great way to stay safe and to remove some of the many pandemic-related barriers that we may encounter, such as physical distancing measures and recreational facility closures.
With many of us spending more time at home than ever before, we can begin to reflect on ways that we can increase our activity levels from the comfort of our home, even if that means starting with something as simple as reducing the amount of time we spend being sedentary.
Sedentary behaviours are activities that we do while we are sitting or lying down, such as watching TV, reading or working at a desk. Reducing the amount of time we spend being sedentary can help protect our health because time spent sitting has been associated with increased risk of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, some cancers and even anxiety and depression (especially in young people). Even if we’re physically active on a regular basis, we’re still placing ourselves at risk for all of these diseases if we spend too much time sitting. For this reason, it’s important to look at ways to limit the amount of time we spend being sedentary whether we are physically active or not.
Unfortunately, recent studies are showing that we seem to be less active and more sedentary since the beginning of the pandemic. To reduce the health impacts of sitting, it’s recommended to take breaks from sitting every 20 to 30 minutes. That may seem impractical, but luckily, adopting strategies to help us ‘sit less’ don’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It can be as simple as setting a timer to remind us to break our time spent sitting, getting up to get a glass of water, standing as we talk on the phone or doing some simple flexibility exercises from our chairs.
Making movement part of our day by reducing the amount of time we spend in sedentary positions is a great way to start being more active from home. But, given the many health benefits associated with participating in regular physical activity, we might also strive towards accumulating the recommended 150 to 300 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity per week. If that seems like a lot, we can start with as little as 10 minutes of physical activity at a time and slowly work our way up.
To adopt a well-rounded home exercise program that has far-reaching health benefits, we can consider including three types of exercises into our routine: aerobic exercises, resistance exercises and flexibility and balance exercises. It’s possible to participate in all three types of exercises from the comfort of our homes – it just requires a little bit of thought and creativity!
We can start by becoming more familiar with the different types of exercises and think about the ones that would fit well into our lifestyles. Choosing exercises that we enjoy doing is key because it will increase our likelihood of sticking with our new home exercise program.
Aerobic exercises aim to get our heart rate up and they help to improve our fitness level. They can include activities such as walking, biking, hiking, urban poling, and some sports (e.g. basketball and tennis). Some of these activities will require us to leave our homes, especially if we don’t have access to indoor equipment like treadmills or stationary bikes, but they are excellent to include in an exercise program because they encourage us to combine the health benefits of being active and spending more time outdoors (while keeping our physical distance from others). Walking is an especially great option because it only requires a pair of comfortable shoes and it’s something that almost everyone can participate in safely.
Resistance exercises involve working our bodies against a resistance in order to keep our muscles and bones strong. Ideally, we should aim to participate resistance exercises on at least 2 days per week. Large and expensive pieces of equipment are not required to perform resistance exercises. In fact, we can see improvements in our strength by performing exercises, such as squats, push-ups and planks, using just our body weight. We can also use common household items (e.g. soup cans, books, laundry detergent bottles, etc.) instead of using equipment like dumbbells or resistance bands if we don’t have access to them. Many of these exercises also don’t require a lot of space and they can be performed from a seated position, which makes them ideal to perform from anywhere and by people of all ability and mobility levels. To begin, we can aim to complete 8 to 12 repetitions of 6 to 8 exercises that work all of the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, core, shoulders and arms). As our strength and fitness level improves, we can repeat the exercises up to three times each.
Lastly, flexibility and balance exercises, such as yoga or tai chi, help to increase the range of motion in our joints, improve our posture and prevent loss of mobility, injuries, falls and back pain. To notice improvements, we should aim to spend 10 to 15 minutes few times per week on these types of exercises. We can consider including balance and flexibility exercises as part of our warm up or cool down (before or after an exercise session) or performing them throughout the day as we work towards reducing sedentary behaviours.
Overall, when it comes to being more active from home, focusing on moving our bodies in any way we can and reducing the amount of time we spend being sedentary is a great place to start. Small changes in our physical activity levels can lead to many positive changes in our health and can help us feel our best, which is especially important during these uncertain times.
If you’re not sure how to get started or if you’re interested in an individualized home exercise program, please contact the Marathon Family Health Team at 807-229-3243 to book and exercise coaching appointment.