It is no secret that working from home has many benefits, especially during a pandemic. But when it comes to getting exercise, this remote set-up can present some challenges.
The gym may be closed or severely limited. There may not be much space in your home for working out. The physical exertions made getting to and from the office are gone.
Thankfully, there are many ways to get the benefits of exercise without going to the gym or commuting to an office. Even with little space and time, you can get a good workout at home, using your body weight or simple pieces of equipment. It just takes a little creativity and motivation.
Ken Croner, personal trainer at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe, has created exercise routines in a diverse array of settings. He is also a national strength and conditioning specialist and USA Weightlifting-Sports Performance coach. He says it is important to make sure that you are setting up a program that includes exercises for the entire body.
For example, though push-ups are a tremendous upper body exercise, you should make sure to train the muscles on your bottom half as well.
For the upper body, try pulling exercises such as chin-ups or some type of row. For the lower body, you might perform a squat or lunge for the pushing component and a hamstring or glute exercise for the pulling movement. “Whether you are training your upper or lower body, if you are performing a pushing exercise, always pair that up with a pulling exercise,” Croner says, “This will help to maintain your posture and pillar strength.”
But how much exercise should you get? According to L.J. Mattraw, wellness manager at Franciscan Health Fitness Centers, a good rule of thumb is 150 minutes of aerobic such as walking, running or jogging per week and two to three sessions of strength training per week.
Mattraw suggests breaking these up to three to five days a week of alternating aerobic and strength training sessions, but it doesn’t matter how you break it up “as long as you get to that mark” of weekly exercise.
And for the strength training, Mattraw said, you don’t need a weight room. Many exercises such as squats, push-ups, sit-ups, step-ups, even planks, that only require things already in your home including a staircase or a floor mat.
It doesn’t need to be intense training for you to benefit. “The most important thing to do is to get out and move. Walk. Jog. Lift some weights. Hike. Much of your activity can be easy to moderate,” says Croner.
While on the job, it's also good to make sure you aren’t just sitting all day. “Prolonged sitting is just not good for your lower back,” Mattraw says. Your body stiffens up if you are sitting for too long. It's one of the reasons back problems can flare up. To prevent this, he suggests setting an alarm to remind you to get up once an hour.
Croner agrees. “The most important thing to do is to set up a designated time each hour to step away from your computer or desk and perform some type of physical activity. This may include a short walk around the room or some simple dynamic stretches.”
When you are sitting, it's important to keep good posture.“Be conscious of how you are sitting; you don't want to slouch,” Mattraw says. “Avoid sitting with a rounded back.”
Proper posture also engages all of your abdominal muscles, Croner says. He says you can keep good posture when sitting by visualizing “a straight line from your ear down through your shoulder and then through your hip.”
This applies to standing too. “When standing, extend that line down through your ankle. Pretend that you have a string pulling your head straight up to the ceiling.”
There are a few simple steps to help your posture by making your work space more ergonomically beneficial.
“Try to have an actual dedicated workspace” instead of just sitting on your couch, Mattraw says, "And try standing at your desk if you can.”
When setting up your workspace, Croner suggests lining things up so that they allow you to maintain your best posture. And pay close attention to the height of your desk and seat.
“Sitting in a position with your shoulders rolling forward will cause a great deal of stress on your head and neck as well as your lumbar spine,” he says.
Besides making physical activity part of your daily schedule, Mattraw says it's good to add some variety. “Try a lot of different things and see what you like.” You can even check out the many free workout videos available online.
“Exercise does not need to be complex, though it must be consistent,” says Croner, “Focus on quality over quantity.”