Tips for exercising at home
Sport at home: how to keep fit during the coronavirus?
The pandemic and lockdown have served as a reminder to us of how important it is to maintain the right exercise routine, even from our own sitting rooms. And what began as a necessity might become a trend, with people worried about going to gyms, sports centres and swimming pools for the good of their health. What's more, thanks to a multitude of apps and digital platforms dedicated to sport, it's easier than ever.
The lockdown as a result of COVID-19 brought with it a new concept for many: telecommuting. But work is not the only thing we've been forced to do from home. As well as work, we've had to reinvent our social lives — video meetings and streamed concerts for instance are a good example — but there's sport too.
Sport has been vital during lockdown, not only to kill time and clear our heads, but also for the good of our health. This has been confirmed by California University doctors, James F. Sallis and Michael Pratt, in an article for the American College of Sports Medicine in which they explain the importance of physical activity as a way of controlling COVID-19 infections and maintaining our quality of life.
But the question was: How can we practise sport when gyms and sports centres are closed, and exercising outdoors has been prohibited in many countries? The situation forced us to look for other alternatives, and turn our homes into improvised gyms. As a result, online sales of equipment such as treadmills and fixed bikes and things like resistance bands, and exercise mats and wheels went through the roof.
The benefits of exercising at home
Following advice for exercising within the four walls of our home is nothing new: the older ones amongst us will remember Jane Fonda's aerobic workout classes that achieved world fame in the '80s and may even sound familiar to younger people, since the 82 year old actress opened a Tik Tok account during lockdown encouraging us to keep fit and at the same time raise awareness about climate change. The thing is, the social media have become one of the main sources when it comes to seeking out sports advice.
Thousands of sports-lovers are showing off their routines on sites such as Instagram, but be careful, because there are amateurs out there as well as professionals, and we shouldn't forget that exercising can be dangerous to our health. On this subject, The World Health Organization (WHO) offers recommendations External link, opens in new window. for practising sport according to people's age range. For example, they recommend that adults between 18 and 64 years spend 150 minutes a week doing moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of strenuous workout in order to improve cardio-respiratory and muscular functions and bone health, and to reduce the risk of depression.
Doing exercise, regardless of where, is good both for physical and mental health — it reduces anxiety levels, for instance — but we mustn't forget that sport at home has a number of advantages (as well as some downsides) over other options: not only do we save time by not having to travel, and have the freedom to exercise whenever we want - but also we can even take our sports equipment on holiday with us. It can be cheaper too, as we only have to shell out once to buy equipment. And we have to add one special benefit in the context of the pandemic: it reduces the possibility of contracting COVID-19.
How to exercise at home. Equipment and exercises
As regards the equipment needed to do sport at home simple and versatile gear is best that allows us to do different exercises. A dumbbells — the weight can vary depending on the use and the objectives — exercise wheels (myofascial and abdominal) — and a mat, are the starting point of any setup. Another basic and very useful item is resistance bands, which can be used for a lot of exercises:
But you can also do exercise without needing any equipment. Here's a few examples:
- Jump Squat
This involves bending the knees as though sitting in a chair and holding this position for a few seconds, then jumping up and stretching them. On landing, return to the original position and repeat a few times. This is a workout for muscles like calves, hamstrings and quadriceps.
- Diamond Push Up
This is a variation on the usual press-up, the difference being the position of the hands: they are placed in the centre, forming a diamond by joining the index fingers and thumbs. This keeps the whole body aligned and moving up and down uniformly. It is a very comprehensive exercise and exercises the arms, chest and abdominals, among others.
- Plank Twist
A plank exercise where you rotate your abdominals as though, for example, you were wringing out a wet towel. With your elbows on the floor at a 90º angle, move your hips to the right and left without touching the floor. This exercise is great for your abdominals.
- Lateral Lunge
To do this exercise you must stand, with legs and shoulders aligned. From there, take a big step to the side while bending the knee — leaving your hips behind — and then return to the original position. Then repeat for the other side. This exercise strengthens the buttock muscles.
Apps for exercising at home
Mobiles have become a great aid when it comes to home exercising, which is why apps like Freeletics rank amongst the most downloaded during lockdown. But it's not the only one that can help to keep us in shape:
- Seven. The exercises in this app are based on scientific research to offer the most benefit in the shortest time. They allow you to train at any time with no equipment, and compete with others to provide an extra dose of encouragement and support.
- Sweat. Kayla Itsines is one of the gurus of home training and she has her own app that offers high-intensity plyometric exercises with minimal equipment. Through video tutorials, the user can access high-intensity training programs, exercises for resistance, cooling down, recovery and much more.
- Sworkit. This app doesn't just offer training in various disciplines — strength exercises, pilates, yoga etc. — and adapt them depending on how long we have to exercise, but it also allows you to set training goals and specify the area of the body you wish to work on.