If you’re looking to get healthier, exercise is a great option. While dieting may be a better route toward weight loss, exercise is essential if you want to be physically fit. To reach this goal, you can join a gym or workout program, but what if you can’t leave the house? This especially can be a problem if you don’t have exercise equipment like weights or treadmills. Regardless, you still want to exercise. So, it’s a good thing that you have plenty of options to work with!
Many of the reasons why you may not be able to leave the house or go very far can be broken into fitness categories, which also can define the exercises available to you. Today, we’ll separate them into three groups.
Before we begin, there’s something we need to say. As with any change in your fitness or dietary routine, check with your doctor before getting started. While these suggestions will be safe and healthy for most people, they may not be for everyone. Please confirm with your primary care physician that you are healthy enough to exercise before beginning any new regimen, even the ones we’re writing about today.
Stuck Around the House
The first reason we will address is that although you’re able to get around, you’re stuck around the house (like in social distancing measures during the COVID-19 quarantine). For these, we’ll take advantage of the outdoors for cardio and light strength training.
If you’re able to get out of the house, of course you should give walking a try. As long as you have a safe area to do so, taking a leisurely walk can be incredibly healthy for you. Since walking is low-impact and scalable to your fitness level, it’s a great workout for people just starting their fitness journey. As you progress and get fitter, you can add weights or hills to burn more calories, among other options to get more out of your walks. Just make sure that, if you’re walking during social distancing practices, you keep your distance from others and practice proper quarantine etiquette, like wearing a mask.
One of the best ways to exercise is to mask it as something you enjoy doing or at least something you need to do. For this reason, yardwork and gardening are great outdoor activities that double as a workout. Yardwork, for example, combines strength training and cardio as you clean up your yard, pull weeds, and more. Incredibly, this chore can burn from 250 to 600 calories an hour! Gardening can burn a similar number of calories while also being low impact on your joints and less of a chore and more of a hobby.
This may seem like a silly idea, and you may feel funny doing this around the house but running backward is an excellent workout if you have the space and want to burn more calories than simply walking. Unlike regular running, backward running (sometimes called retro running) uses different muscles than forward running and is more demanding on your muscles, burning more calories. It can also improve your balance. Despite the more intense exercise, retro running has also been found to be less demanding on your knees and joints, preventing stress injuries to those areas.
Next, we’ll focus on people with limited mobility. You may fall into this category if you’re able to walk, but not for long distances or struggle to stand without aid. For this group, we’ll aim to improve your mobility with core and leg strength.
Strengthening your leg muscles is a good idea for most people with limited mobility. We suggest a squat, which can improve almost every muscle in your leg. This can make you more mobile and prevent falls. If you’re worried about falling, put a chair behind you, so that if you fall backward, you land softly on the chair.
To do a correct squat, have your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees, keeping your back straight. Bend until your knees are at a 90° angle before returning to a standing position. Repeat this is 10 to 15 repetitions (reps) for four sets with a short break between sets. If that’s too hard, do fewer reps, and if it’s too easy, do more. Just make sure to listen to your body.
A core workout you can do while seated is called leg flutters or leg kicks, and they may seem simple, but trust us, they’ll give you a solid workout. Flutters effectively exercise and tone your muscles from your stomach down to your knees and burns anywhere from 20 to 120 calories in a very short span.
To leg flutter, sit up straight in your chair and place both hands at your side (either gripping the edges of the seat or flat on the seat). Next, extend both legs straight out so that your heels are off the ground before raising one foot to the highest point you can. At the same time, lower your other foot to about one inch off the ground. Switch your feet’s positions and repeat for about 30 seconds (you can do less if that’s hard). Do this about 10 times, adjusting for your fitness.
A simplified version of the leg flutters is called knee extensions. If you’re finding leg flutters to be a bit too difficult, start with extensions to work your way up. This exercise is more focused on your legs, without working out your core as much, but it is a great way to strengthen a number of leg muscles to improve your mobility and balance.
To complete a knee extension, sit on the edge of a chair with your knees at a 90° angle. Raise one of your ankles until your leg is nearly straight (you don’t want to lock your knee). Hold it for a second or two before lowering your foot back to the ground. Do this with your other foot. Repeat with each leg for about 10 reps each for about two to four sets, depending on your fitness.
Finally, we’ll look at exercises for the bedbound — those who can’t walk or get around. Yes, you can still exercise while confined to a bed. While you may not be running marathons, you can get the benefits of working out. For this group, we’ll focus on strength and light mobility. These are generalized suggestions, however. Since your options are a bit limited and defined by your personal health circumstances, you should work with your doctor to come up with a personalized exercise plan.
Leg lifts or raises are similar to flutters in that they can strengthen your leg muscles and some of your lower core. At the same time, they can prevent pressure sores and help you retain leg strength by preventing atrophy. While lying on your back, raise one leg as high as you can. Try to keep the leg straight, but if that’s too difficult, don’t be afraid to add a little bend. In this case, cheating a little is better than not doing the exercise at all. Hold your leg for 5 to 10 seconds and then lower the leg back to the mattress, before raising the other leg. Repeat this eight to 10 times before resting (less if you need to). To maximize the impact of this exercise, repeat it a few times throughout the day.
This next exercise improves the flexibility and motion of your ankles. Place a rolled-up towel or even your other foot underneath your ankle to raise it slightly. Next, slowly draw a large circle with your big toe. After about 10 rotations, switch directions and do 10 more rotations. Switch to your other foot and do the same there. Much like the leg lifts, doing this exercise throughout the day will improve your mobility.
You shouldn’t ignore your arms while you’re bedridden, either. An arm lift can strengthen your shoulder and upper arm muscles while keeping them from atrophying. They’re also pretty simple to do! While sitting or lying down, raise your arms straight above your head. Hold it there for 10 seconds before lowering it back down to your side. Repeat for eight to 10 repetitions for three to four sets before doing the same with your other arm.
Just remember, especially if your condition requires you to be bedridden, you should check with your doctor before starting any new workout or exercises. Together, you and your doctor can come up with a fitness plan that will serve your needs most.
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Nobody likes being stuck at home, especially if you’re looking to get into shape and have suddenly found your options limited. With these suggestions, no matter what the circumstances, you’ll be able to start making your way toward better fitness and better health.