How to exercise when you're stuck at home
The arrival of Covid-19 has meant a lot more time at home, and so for many of us, the couch has never looked so comfy. But ACU’s Dr Craig Duncan, a senior lecturer in exercise science, stresses that making time for regular exercise in spite of restrictions is more important than ever.
If you’ve recently transitioned to studying or working at home full-time, your new lifestyle likely involves a lot more sitting. With incidental exercise like a walk to the train station now non-existent, remaining physically active is more crucial than ever.
“A sedentary lifestyle is related to many adverse health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, so it’s critical you remain physically active,” said Dr Duncan.
Making the first move
While you may have marathon ambitions, begun looking into the latest fad diet or downloaded the best new high-intensity workout app, Dr Duncan said overdoing it as a beginner is asking for trouble.
“Just start off slow,” he recommends. “As with any exercise program, it’s important it’s safe. If you have any chronic health conditions, check with a qualified person about what is best for you.
The simplest way to begin? Go outside for a walk and progress from there. We can still leave our homes, so let’s make the most of it.”
If your usual exercise routine is no longer possible, finding the motivation to tackle new challenges is always tricky, especially when temptations like Netflix and your couch are mere steps away.
“It's very important to develop a new routine,” Dr Duncan advised. “A great way to get going is to commit to walking for five minutes one way, and then five minutes back. Once you’ve started taking those first steps, you’ll be able to build up to 30 minutes, which is ideal.”
You do you
Dr Duncan’s best advice, however, is “Know thyself”, which means enjoyment plays a big part in your exercise.
“I advocate a philosophy called self-science, which I developed. What this means is do things that will work for you, not what you see someone else doing.”
So, you don’t like running? Don’t run. You can’t swim? Skip the laps in the pool.
Dr Duncan’s philosophy is good common sense as it encourages us to find the things we do like doing, rather than trying to force an unrealistic overnight change in ourselves.
“It’s basically about moving more and finding something that you will actually do – and enjoy,” he said.
Home is where the health is
If you’re interested in home workouts, Dr Duncan assures us that buying the shiniest new equipment we can get our hands on isn’t necessary.
“It’s easy to adapt and use what you already have at home. Simple bodyweight exercises such as pushups or starting with an online beginner yoga routine is possible with no equipment. It all depends on what level you are starting at, but there is an increasing number of online programs catering to all fitness levels that you can watch and follow along to at home.”
Head to YouTube and try a channel like Fitness Blender, which offers free virtual workouts catering to all levels. If yoga is more where you’re leaning, try Yoga by Adriene – with over 26 million views on her ‘Yoga for Complete Beginners’ video, you know she’s hitting the mark.
“My advice is to just make it fun,” Dr Duncan adds. “Try creating virtual Zoom classes or FaceTime with friends so you still stay connected.”
Why exercise matters
Don’t forget that developing a solid exercise routine is about more than losing weight or a way to pass the time.
“Stress and anxiety are the enemies of our immune system, making exercise its friend,” Dr Duncan said. “By exercising daily, you’ll be making sure your immune system remains robust.
“Furthermore, exercise is vital for our mental health. Even if the shutdown has passed, the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle are the same.
But while many people don't have exercise built into their daily routines, interestingly, I've noticed that it appears more people are out walking than ever before, so maybe there are some positives coming from this time?”
Food for thought
What’s not so positive right now for all of us studying and working from home is the increased snacking.
“At any time, extra food over and above what we require will only increase our body size. It's no different to holidays or anytime when we find ourselves at home more. Often we’re just eating out of boredom,” Dr Duncan said.
His advice? Food needs a routine now too.
“Set your eating times. Again, use the self-science approach, know your triggers and remove them.”
Dr Craig Duncan
Dr Craig Duncan is one of Australia's leading sport scientists with a passion for safe, professional, and ethical standards in the industry. He is a senior lecturer in the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences.
Learn more about developing a career in exercise science and high performance sport at ACU.