No Gym? No Problem. How to Stay Fit While Staying Inside

No Gym? No Problem. How to Stay Fit While Staying Inside

You don’t need fancy equipment to get a great workout. Here’s how to maintain your fitness within your home.

Updated on May 8, 2020 at 1:00pm EST

With much of the country under stay-at-home orders to promote social distancing, and gyms closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19, many adults are looking for ways to maintain an exercise routine at home. Even during a pandemic, being active is vital to your health.

Not only does regular exercise strengthen your body, but it can also make you happier. Even a little bit of exercise every day can elevate your mood, reduce stress, improve your sleep and help you feel less angry. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day, but every little bit counts. If you’re strapped for time, getting your blood pumping and working up a sweat in short 5-minute increments is good for your body and mind.

Michael Garrison, PhD, kinesiologist and founder of Hawaii Running Lab in Honolulu, offers insights on ways to exercise indoors during the pandemic that are safe and effective.

Create a time and space
“Right now, what I think so many people need is structure,” Garrison says. He recommends setting a designated time and space to exercise. “It doesn’t have to be a permanent space,” he notes. “It can be in the middle of your family room, but from 10 to 11 a.m., the middle of your family room is the gym.”

You don’t need an entire room or a large space, either. “Basically, you need a footprint the size of the yoga mat and you can get a lot of work done,” Garrison advises. Once you create your time and space, try to focus on workouts that have a goal, such as working up to a certain number of pushups or holding a plank for a minute.

Just remember to be flexible with your guidelines. With kids and partners home, you may not always be able to complete all of the exercises you’d like to. While it helps to set expectations with your family or housemates before you work out, be open to adjusting your plan on the fly.

Use your body weight
If you don’t own weights or gym equipment, no problem! “I think simple body weight moves can be really effective for most people, especially since most of the population doesn't work out on a regular basis,” says Garrison.

Body weight exercises leverage your body mass in different ways to build strength and they don’t require much space. Some moves to try could include:

There are also variations on these exercises. If you have any weaknesses or injuries, you can modify moves where necessary. On the flip side, you can also find variations to make your workout a little more challenging—think holding cans in each hand while you squat, then doing sets of biceps curls or shoulder presses when you return to standing. Search the web to find ways to make these bodyweight moves fit with your experience and fitness levels.

Garrison also recommends combining a number of moves into circuits. One way to create a circuit is to pick 8 to 10 exercises, do them for 30 seconds each with a quick rest between sets, then repeat.

Find inspiration online
Given the current coronavirus pandemic, many fitness instructors are teaching their classes online, streaming through social media, video call or other websites. “There's a ton of different available workouts online, yoga classes online, everything's getting pushed into that mode, which is fantastic,” says Garrison.  You can also look for written workout routines you can do on your own time on social media.

Consider downloading free apps as well that give you daily plans that will work with your specific needs. Some paid apps, such as Peloton, are offering their services free for a specific amount of time.

Reach out to friends
Are you used to doing exercise classes, runs or bike rides with friends? While you can’t meet your buddies to work out, you can still connect with friends as accountability buddies to help you meet your goals—and vice versa.

Consider creating a fitness challenge over social media; many have the option to create private group challenges to keep you and your team members motivated. Or sign up for a challenge on an app like Sharecare (available for iOS and Android).

You can also pick the same streaming class as a friend and do it together. When you’re done exercising, call or video chat with your buddies to let them know how you did. Talking on the phone can help you feel more connected—which is important when you’re physically disconnected.

Remember, it’s ok to go outside
Social distancing may not mean that you need to stay indoors at all times. Depending on the specific city, county and state ordinances you are under, you can still go outside for walks, runs or bike rides to remain active. 

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

CDC. “How much physical activity do adults need?” March 19, 2020.
“Staying Active While Social Distancing: Questions and Answers.” April 7, 2020.
Dana Kozlov. “Beck, Lightfoot On Stay At Home Order: Citations To Be Issued, Parks Could Be Shut Down.” CBS Chicago. March 25, 2020.
CDC. “How to Protect Yourself & Others.” April 13, 2020.
Amanda Capritto. “Exercising outside during self quarantine: The do's and don'ts.” March 31, 2020.
Aubri Juhasz. “How Runners Can Keep Themselves And Others Safe During The Pandemic.” NPR. April 13, 2020.

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