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Stuck at home? Here's how you can keep your body and mind fit.
The global Coronavirus pandemic has most of us spending a lot of time indoors these days. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably starting to feel a bit lethargic. Without access to the gym or your favorite running trails, it is easy to get complacent and let go of your workout routine. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some of the best ways you can try to stay fit and healthy right at home.
Your fitness tracker is more capable than you think
We’ve covered the best ways to build out a quick home-gym, and have even talked about apps that help you track your fitness levels, but what about the ever-ubiquitous fitness tracker? With one in five Americans sporting one, there’s a good chance you have one strapped on your wrist right now. Between heart rate sensors, step tracking, sleep tracking, Spo2 data, there’s more than enough data here to help you keep motivated and stay fit at home. Additionally, did you know that your fitness tracker (well, most fitness trackers) comes with a whole range of guided workouts loaded up out of the box?
One of the first things you enter when setting up your smartwatch is a daily step goal. Serious athletes might scoff at it, but getting 8-10,000 steps in a day is no joke when you are living under home quarantine. Almost every fitness tracker can be set up to alert you if you’ve been sitting too long. Combined with a realistic step goal, this is a great way to ensure you get some activity spread over the course of the day.
That said, if you are working from home, there’s a good chance that you are still spending a lot of time on a desk. This likely won’t leave you much time to get all those steps in. Having lived the remote work life for over a decade, I know how hard it can be to maintain some semblance of a routine and activity level when there’s little reason to step out of the house. This makes it even more important to take proactive measures to increase movement, activity levels to stay fit while at home.
Enter, guided workouts. I, like many users of fitness trackers, am guilty of jumping straight into my preferred workout mode and setting off. For me, usually, this is a run or the occasional weight training session. Quarantined at home, I’ve come to realize that guided workouts can be a very effective means to mix things up or even try out something new, all while getting in a bit of physical activity.
Your options will vary depending on your choice of fitness tracker and this function is usually restricted to higher-end trackers equipped with a display. That said, Garmin does a really good job here with the included, on-device workouts on the Garmin Venu and Garmin vivoactive 4.
My colleague Jimmy reviewed the Garmin Venu last year and found the on-device workouts easy to follow. Be it yoga or pilates or even strength training, these are exercises that can be easily used to stay fit at home. Additionally, having fully animated models ensures that you know exactly what you are doing. A light buzz informs you when it is time to move to the next position which makes sure that things keep moving along at a decent clip.
Over on the Fitbit side of things, you need to look for the Coach app on your Ionic or Versa. Either watch ships with a few basic workouts preloaded on the device to get you started off. The premise is similar to Garmin’s on-device workouts. Full-motion video helps you get the posture just right and guides you through the motions right on cue. Elsewhere, the included breathing exercise app is a little short on features but works very well if you need to cool down after a workout or to catch a bit of breath in the middle of a busy day.
To further sweeten the deal, Fitbit is tossing in 90 days of Fitbit Premium service for free which makes it a no-brainer to try out. The premium service gives you access to more in-depth analytics as well as hundreds of workout videos. While hardcore enthusiasts might find the wider library of workout videos a bit easy, they are perfectly geared towards beginners and intermediate level users looking to get a bit of activity and movement in to stay fit while home.
I’m a big fan of the social features of the Fitbit app. The ability to compare daily step count and workouts can be a pretty good motivator if you’re the competitive kind.
While we’re on the topic of social features, Strava definitely deserves a mention. One of the biggest fitness communities out there, it can pull in data from most popular fitness trackers. I prefer to use the Strava app on my Fitbit to sync my workout data across services so that I can keep up with friends who might not be using a Fitbit. Admittedly, Strava works best with outdoor exercises and I would recommend that you follow local guidance and practices in case you are planning to head out for cycling or a run. If you’ve been longing to get back to your local running group, Strava can go a long way to fill that void.
Here in India, stepping out during the lockdown is an absolute no-go and so I’ve turned to calisthenics to replace my running schedule alongside weight training. Calisthenics uses a variety of muscles to give you a full-body workout using just your bodyweight. This makes it a nearly perfect workout technique to stay fit while at home.
Now, I’m a complete novice to bodyweight exercises so I turned to YouTube in the hope of finding some quality training videos. As it turns out, there is a world of YouTubers giving out quality information on how to get fit with no equipment at all.
My personal favorite is Pamela Reif. I’ve been following her ab- and leg-training videos over on YouTube and the results have been fantastic. The channel has something for everyone. From beginner-focussed workouts to more intensive HIIT and upper body exercises, there’s enough content here to keep you occupied for days. I thought that I was in pretty good shape, but almost every workout has had me sweating and feeling the burn.
Diet and mental health are just as important
Exercise fads may come and go, but if there’s one thing that experts can universally attest to, it is the fact that diet is one of the most important aspects of fitness. As it turns out, sticking to a diet is just as hard in a lockdown than outside one.
Apps are a fantastic way of keeping a tab on what you are taking in. Sitting at home, your body doesn’t really need as many calories as it would on a regular day. Using your favorite diet tracking app to keep track of a more sedentary lifestyle is a good idea right now so that it can automatically adjust your daily caloric goals. We’ve got a list of fantastic diet tracking and management apps to try out. Personally, I prefer MyFitnessPal for the excellent food database and ease of tracking micro and macronutrients.
Listen, I get it. Being stuck indoors is no fun. In fact, if you are prone to getting anxious, this is probably not the best time for you. Meditation and mindfulness can play a big role in easing stress, at least to a degree. Once again, there are apps to help you stay mentally fit while at home.
Headspace is widely considered one of the best mindfulness apps around. It promises to help you better deal with anxiety and to sleep better. In fact, the company is opening up access to a range of services and exercises that should help you find a bit of peace of mind.
Lately, I’ve also started dabbling in yoga. Our very own Jimmy Westenberg recommended the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel and I’ve found her exercises and technique to be approachable for a beginner. In fact, the ongoing 30 days of Yoga series is a fantastic way to get started off and acquainted with yoga. I’ve been pairing up yoga with calisthenics and better diet management to stay fit and nimble during this extended lockdown.
As a bonus, I would highly recommend trying out apps like Sleepa if you’ve been having trouble sleep. I’ve dealt with insomnia for over a decade and believe me, good sleep is precious. It is understandable to be anxious with all the uncertainty in the world right now, but a good night’s sleep can go a long way towards perking you up.
Be it the gentle sound of a babbling brook, or in my case, the constant low drone of an airplane engine, comforting sounds are a good way to help you drift off to sleep. I swear by Sleepa. However, there are dozens of similar apps on the Play Store and they all do roughly the same job. Fitbit Premium also has a variety of ambient soundtracks if you’re a subscriber.
What are you doing to stay fit during the lockdown?
What about you? Are you maintaining an exercise schedule to stay fit at home or are you taking the time off to sit back and relax? We’d love to know.