With gyms, pools and community centres closed, and playing in team sports unavailable, more and more people are exercising at home. Even if you’re a runner, practicing physical distancing can be hard with more people on the sidewalks. Especially if you live in a city’s busy downtown core. Needless to say, all of us have had our activity routines disrupted in some shape or form.

Given it may be weeks or months more before the first restrictions lighten up, if you’re not active that can put a big dent in your fitness. Not to mention the enjoyment and benefits to mental well-being we all get from exercise. But there are ways you can keep exercising at home.

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Sit Less, Move More

Whether you’re temporarily out of work, working from home or retired, most likely you’re sitting more. No more walking around the office or workplace or going for social outings. Situations where you’re on your feet moving about even if it’s only for a couple of minutes are gone. And sitting for 8-10 hours per day isn’t uncommon now.

The problem with sitting for a long time is it shuts your body down. You’re no longer clearing the sugar and fat in your blood stream. Over time this increases your chances for early disease and death. For every two hours of sitting, the chances for getting diabetes can go up by 20%. Even if you’re active, it can’t undo long stretches of sitting.

But breaking the habit of sitting isn’t that hard. Ideally, you should aim to get up and walk around every 20-30 minutes. It doesn’t need to be long, just two minutes can get your body going again and improve your blood sugar. You can even walk in place while watching your favourite show.

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If You Can, Go Outside

Fortunately, most places are allowing people to go outside and exercise, as long as it adheres to physical distancing. This means activities such as walking, running and bicycling are allowed. Some places are even okay with kicking or throwing a ball around in the parks. Being outside exposes you to natural light and different surroundings. It can reduce stress and anxiety, and improve physical health.

If you’ve ever been interested in cycling but worried about traffic, now is a great opportunity. The streets are much quieter with less cars. Cycling is also something you can do with the whole family. Just don’t get too close to other cyclists, especially those in spandex gear. They don’t pull over or use a tissue when needing to sneeze.

Exercising in the Comfort of Home

Of course, not all of us are allowed or feel comfortable going outside right now. And it’s not only older adults in that group. People living in high-rise apartments can find it hard to physically distance in elevators, plus have concerns about touching the elevator buttons. Most apartments have implemented a two-person limit in the elevator, which is good but can mean lots of waiting. As a result, many people are limiting the number of times they leave their apartment.

There are lots of ways to be active at home. You can come up with you own activities, use some in the video I’ve included here or find a program on YouTube to follow along. It’s also a great time to try something different. From fitness trainers to Zumba to ballet and beyond, many instructors are doing free live classes on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

For some fun with the family, try doing one of the dance or activity challenges on TikTok. Videos and activity have jumped during the pandemic as multi-generational families join in the fun. While the videos are usually quite short (15-30 seconds), it’s the practice that provides the workout.

No Equipment, No Problem

Besides toilet paper, home fitness equipment also sold out quickly. But that doesn’t matter. Take a look around the house and you’ll find plenty of things you can use. The kitchen pantry is full of cans and jars to replace dumbbells. Milk jugs can be refilled with water or sand to use as weights and bags of potatoes can replace kettle bells.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the benefit of doing household chores. With the extra time at home, you can do some extra cleaning, home maintenance and tidying. Things such as mopping, washing windows and yard work are great ways to increase your activity. Our earlier research indicated that household chores can add up and decrease your risk for early death.

Regardless of what you do, aim to sit less, move more and do 20-30 minutes of exercise that gets your heart rate and breathing faster. Doing so will add routine to your day, improve mental and physical well-being and keep up your fitness for when you can get back to your normal routine.

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