This situation is hard for everyone, especially for active people. If going to the gym was your thing, now you have to get used to exercising at home. Health experts share their tips on how to improve your fitness, eat healthy, and avoid weight gain during this quarantine.
If you’re a regular gym-goer, you may still be struggling with settling into the new lifestyle that COVID-19 forces everyone to have right now. The good news is whether you were dedicated to your routine or you struggled to make it to the fitness center before the COVID-19 pandemic, there are practical ways to adapt your workouts at home. In fact, maintaining your fitness gains doesn’t require as much effort as you might think. This practical advice can prevent you from losing ground when the gym is closed, stave off weight gain (or even lose weight), and help you remain healthy and strong.
You don’t have to start over
If you’ve lost a little workout time as you were forced to adapt to this quarantine, don’t worry. Current research explains that it takes a minimum of three weeks of no training to experience a level of significant muscle loss, according to Bill Kwiek, board-certified athletic trainer and Los Angeles-based health and wellness consultant.
“It’s surely possible to prevent the loss of fitness gains,” says Kwiek. He adds that with the correct programming and effort, you can not only avoid losses but actually have gains during this time.
Create a routine
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion advises that in order to achieve the most health benefits from physical activity, adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity each week, plus muscle-strengthening activities two days per week.
You can easily accomplish this schedule by working out 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, says Erwin Seguia, board-certified specialist in sports physical therapy, and co-founder of Match Fit Performance. One at-home cardio option Seguia suggests is Tabata. This workout, created by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata and his research team from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
For example, Seguia says a Tabata session includes eight rounds of 20-second exercises at maximum effort, with 10 seconds of rest in between. Kwiek also emphasizes giving your body proper rest time after workouts, in order to recover and adapt, which helps support performance improvements and fitness results.
No equipment needed
“There is a plethora of free body-only home workouts available via social media and personal trainers during this time,” says Kwiek. You can also opt for online training with fitness experts via FaceTime, or hire a professional to create a personalized program based on your goals and the equipment you may have at home.
Seguia doesn’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all approach. But a general guideline that works for everybody is to engage in two to three strength training sessions per week using your own body weight.
This routine can include a sit to stand move (squat) and step up/down (walking up/downstairs with minimal support) for your lower body, followed by push-ups (shoulder press, bench press, or bench dip), and a pull (like a bent-over row or bench row) for your upper body.
If you don’t have fitness equipment but still want to train using weights, you can use household items like cans, bags filled with books, water jugs, and rice bags can provide extra weight.
Evaluate online workouts carefully
A top priority at this time is exercising safely and doing the exercises that are working for you. This is to ensure you don’t need to worry about seeking a doctor’s care for a fitness-related injury. Before engaging in any workout you can find online, run it through a few filters.
“The key to exercising at home safely is not to exceed or change the load you normally put on your body,” says Kwiek. For example, if you typically don’t do long cardio sessions as part of your gym program, it is not a good idea to start doing it now, while you’re stuck at home.
Kwiek also advises to start at the beginner level, and slowly progress as your body adapts to the routine. Seguia says, “If you’re doing an exercise for the first time, and anything in the movement feels sharp or stabbing or becomes uncomfortable enough that you have to change the way you’re doing it, it’s time to stop.”
Kwiek also recommends common-sense safety measures, including exercising on safe surfaces, and not jumping or landing on hardwood floors wearing socks.
Take advantage of this opportunity
If you haven’t been constant with your workout routine in the past, being at home can be the perfect time to develop a ritual, which can ultimately help you prevent weight gain, or even improve your body composition. Kwiek says,
“This might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to start a more consistent workout routine.” He adds that the most used excuse for skipping the gym is not having enough time. With that barrier overcome, now that daily commutes, kids’ activities, and other outside obligations are on hold, this is an ideal time to establish a schedule.
Kwiek recommends physically writing down and scheduling exercise into your week. Committing to a workout buddy, either in your own home, or who you share your progress with via calls, texts, or social media, is also a smart accountability strategy, advises Seguia. He adds, “Habit building is hard, but it’s not impossible.”
Aim for nutritional balance
In addition to exercise, healthy eating it is also very important in maintaining a healthy overall lifestyle because eating plays a major role in preventing weight gain. Nutrition contributes to roughly 80% of weight management outcomes and exercise is only 20%. That’s because the number of calories burned during exercise generally can’t compensate for a pattern of overeating.
For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 154-pound man burns 280 calories walking at 3.5 miles per hour for 60 minutes. A pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia provides 1010 calories.
You don’t have to let go of your favorite treats, but try to enjoy them mindfully less often rather than spontaneously on the daily. Try eating balanced meals made of plenty of produce, lean protein, healthful fat, and moderate portions of fiber-rich carbohydrates, including whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit.
Don’t give up
Last but not least, don’t give up. If you’re tempted to take a break from exercise until restrictions are lifted, there are important reasons to hang in there. “Exercise and regular movement help with immunity, digestion, and other bodily functions,” says Seguia, who gently reminds that our bodies are made to move.
He adds that even pacing, walk in your apartment, or walking up and down steps, offers benefits over sitting. Kwiek adds that being active has also been shown to increase energy and mood, reduce stress, and improve cognitive function. “Exercise is an easy way to maintain your best physical and mental health during this uncertain time,” says Kwiek.
Create a routine you can stick to, choose safe workouts suitable for your fitness level, and build in some accountability. The benefits are impactful immediately and may help you establish a healthy habit with staying power long beyond this pandemic.