My recent telehealth visits reveal that changed schedules during this stay at home pandemic have uprooted exercise programs for many.
No more health club visits, workouts with a personal trainer, spin classes, morning walks with a friend or exercising at home while kids are at school.
Working remotely can also lead to more sedentary behaviors.
This can be a vicious cycle whereby less movement can lead to a lower mood and energy level and less motivation to become physically active.
During my telehealth counseling sessions and in this blog, I share tips for boosting movement, mood and motivation despite disrupted schedules.
1 – Take frequent breaks from prolonged sitting
You can use a timer on your smartphone or activity tracker to buzz, vibrate or beep if you’ve been sitting too long or use an app for reminders such as Stand Up: The Work Break Timer or Encourage: Move More Sit Less.
Whether you set it for a 5 to 10 minute break every hour or a 3 minute break every half hour, an alarm signals it’s time to get up and walk around.
Getting up and moving around allows you to stretch your back and limbs and can refresh your mind as well.
2 – Set a daily schedule for moving more
Whether it’s a daily walk outside (weather permitting and with precautions to stay safe), engaging in regular virtual workouts, working out at home using home exercise equipment, doing work around the house, gardening or a combination of all the above, regular daily physical activity is needed as much for you mind as your body.
For outdoor walks, you can buddy up with your dog if you have one or family members you live with or walk solo, enjoying a change of scenery. Even if your children slow down you walking pace, you are getting fresh air and moving your body. You can still practice healthy habits while social distancing. A new trend to consider is doing social distancing walks with friends or family not living with you.
Find a virtual exercise class that sounds fun through your health club if you have one, YouTube or Peloton. Many free classes are available like Zumba, dance, yoga, or total body workouts. Enjoyable workouts give you a boost of endorphins to help you feel better.
For home workouts, be creative by using counters for pushups, stairs for climbing and soup cans or filled water bottles for free weights. Exercise bands, which can be ordered online, can offer you a way to do strength training without needing fancy fitness equipment. Doing calisthenics with your children can get the whole family moving more together. If you have home exercise equipment like a treadmill or bike, move it to a room with a TV where it will more likely be used.
Remember that doing work around the house such as cleaning out the garage, washing the cars, cleaning your house or doing some gardening count too. Again, family members can be your little helpers folding laundry, putting toys away, drying the car or watering plants.
3 – Plan and Self-monitor to stay on track
The most effective strategies to ensure that you develop and stick to a new activity schedule at home is to plan and monitor. Plan for when you will take minibreaks to stand and stretch, and when you will carve out dedicated time for exercise. These movement activities will not just happen by themselves – they must be deliberately planned to build consistency.
Plans need to be reinforced by self-monitoring. Whether you keep track with pen and paper, use an Excel spreadsheet or a smartphone app, confirming that you stuck to your plan strengthens motivation and provides a sense of accomplishment.
Self-monitoring is a technique that you can also use to track your eating habits and nudge healthier eating.
Following healthy lifestyle strategies at home during the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the most important and controllable goals we can achieve.
With deliberate plans to move more and be active, we can remain fit and energetic.
Stay safe and be well!
Robert Kushner, MD