So, here we go again….Lockdown 2 is officially underway, and will last until next month. It’s likely that that the colder, shorter days will, in some ways, make this feel like a more difficult period to get through than the first lockdown. On the flipside, I think there are some positives. The government is insisting that the 2nd December is a hard deadline, after which the current stay-at-home restrictions will be eased. And we all have the benefit of knowing we have been through this before – and come out the outer side. We know what works (and what doesn’t!), in terms of how we fill our time. Importantly, we should all be aware of the benefits of staying as fit and as healthy as possible. In other words, welcome back to exercising at home!
The advantages of exercise
Staying active has huge benefits, both physically and mentally. I think the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that, like it or not, size definitely matters. Unfortunately, being overweight is a confirmed risk factor for coronavirus. Did you know that at one stage, around 70% of patients admitted to intensive care units in UK hospitals were overweight, obese or morbidly obese? Luckily, regular exercise is a brilliant way to combat weight gain. It can also improve our sleep quality, bolster our immune system, help to manage stress levels and protect our mental health. That’s because exercise doesn’t just burn calories. It also releases precious endorphins – natural neurochemicals that can relieve pain and anxiety, and boost feelings of general wellbeing.
The outdoor options
Staying at home doesn’t have to mean staying indoors 24/7. Yes, gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools are temporarily closed, but ‘exercising at home’ can still include some much-needed fresh air. A brisk, daily walk has countless benefits (not least a welcome change of scene if you’re working from home again!). Walking is free, easy and suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. I love walking and am always one for a walk every day. I find being exposed to sunlight and fresh air is a natural mood-booster. And just being outside will also help your body to produce vitamin D, a compound necessary for strong bones and teeth, and which may even reduce the infection and impact of COVID-19.
Running is another great way to tone up and lose weight. In fact, a 30-minute outing, just a few times a week, can keep you fit, happier and healthier in these difficult times. However, muddy paths, colder temperatures and darker evenings can (understandably) be off-putting. So, if running is your thing – or you’d like it to be – now might be the time to invest in a treadmill. Decathlon stocks a wide range that’s sure to include a model to suit every budget and fitness ability.
Experiment and investigate exercising at home
For many of us, exercise with other people can be intimidating, especially when starting something new. The good news is, exercising at home is private. So if you’ve always wanted to experiment with a new activity, now is the time to take the plunge!
For example, I’ve never been brave enough to try to a mini-trampoline class in my local gym. But I know that these “rebounding” workouts have heaps of benefits (and many celebrity fans!). Mini trampolines are a high cardio, low impact option that can help to build bone density and improve lymph flow. They can also improve coordination and balance. If you’re unsure how to go it alone, take a look at Bounce, which offers studio and online classes, perfect for exercising at home during lockdown. You can expect to pay around £30 for an entry-level mini-trampoline. Folding models with handles are more versatile if you’re short of storage space.
Hula hooping (yes, really!) is another effective all-body workout that’s ideal for exercising at home. It boosts your cardiovascular fitness and challenges your core muscles. There’s even evidence to suggest it can trim inches from those hard-to-target waist and hip areas! Hooping workouts require very little space, and are suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Powerhoop is one of the best-known brands. Its deluxe model incorporates adjustable weights, allowing you to “upgrade” as you progress, but cheaper models are also available. The Hooping Academy’s “Hoop at Home” six-week challenge promises a mix of fun and fast results, and even includes some quick and healthy recipe ideas.
Tried and tested exercising at home
If you’re finding another lockdown very unsettling, sticking to what you know while exercising at home is a sensible strategy. For me, that means continuing with my Pilatesanytime.com classes. I’ve been practising Pilates for years, and while still I’m a huge fan of reformer Pilates, in lockdown mat Pilates is a far more practical option. Pilates strengthens my muscles, builds my core, clears my mind, increases my energy and reduces my stress levels. And all I need to do it is a mat and an internet connection! If you’re interested in exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing, yoga is another wonderful lockdown option. I’ve also heard lots of good things about Les Mills Body Balance. In fact, the Les Mills On Demand programme is one of the best online exercise options if you’re keen to include lots of variety to keep things fresh. This streaming platform offers more than 1,000 different workouts, including strength, cardio, HIIT, dance and flexibility. Durations range from 15 to 55 minutes, so there really is something to suit everyone.
Whatever your exercise at home plan includes during this second lockdown, here are a few tips and tricks that helped me keep going the first time round. If possible, create a dedicated workout space, where you store any equipment you need (mat, weights, kettle bells, resistance bands etc). That way, you’ll waste less time looking for what you need, and more time actually working out. Next, do everything you can to eliminate distractions. Mute your mobile, divert your house phone and ask fellow family members not to disturb you. Exercising at home is vital ‘me-time’. Prioritise it and protect it! Lastly, think about when you exercise. During the summer, evening walks and workouts fitted in well with my schedule, but now that it’s dark at 4.30pm, I’ll be switching things around. An early-morning or lunchtime session makes the most of the available light, and it’s very satisfying to ‘tick the exercise box’ early on in the day. It’s all too easy to run out of time and motivation if you leave things any later. So commit to a routine and then stick to it!
Exercise is essential – but it’s not the whole picture where wellbeing is concerned. Click here to discover my other tried-and-tested tactics to keep fit and healthy during the Coronavirus crisis.