How to stay fit and healthy while self-isolating or working from home

Kristine Tarbert
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

As the coronavirus continues to spread, and the Prime Minister announcing more restrictions on gatherings this week, it is looking increasingly likely that life as we know it is about to be pretty severely disrupted.

Whether you’re already working from home, self-isolating or fear you may be in the future, despite Australia not yet in full lockdown, many are already resigning themselves to spending more time at home in the coming weeks.

Being home-bound is not an excuse to let your health and fitness goals slip (Getty)

But aside from an initial joy at being able to spend all day in our PJs, this spike in home-time could have some pretty big impacts on our health and fitness goals.

While gym-goers may have already begun to think twice about sharing equipment, changing rooms, and towels during the virus outbreak, those who have opted to self-avoid public transport could also see their usual fitness routines disrupted.

And sitting at our desks (or kitchen tables!) all day can have an impact on how much, or little, we’re moving.

But keeping your body fit and healthy is even more important when there’s a global pandemic on the spread, as the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently indicated on social media when he dished out some stay-fit-at-home advice.

“It's been a very busy week for everyone,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Gehebreyesus wrote on Twitter. “The world is fighting #COVID19 together as one. And yet life must go on. I hope everyone is taking rest this weekend.”

Why it is so important to stay active when stuck at home

The fact is that even though we could be spending more time at home, that’s no reason to let our health and fitness goals slide completely. Yahoo spoke to the health and fitness experts on how you can stay on top of your health and fitness goals even if you’re required to stay home.

According to Dr Thomas Falda, Training Specialist at Freeletics, being sedentary for long periods of time has some pretty serious physical health risks such as slower metabolism, muscle weakness, obesity and raised cholesterol levels.

“By keeping your muscles active your body will pump more blood around your body, and thus oxygen and nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy,” he explains.

Turn to the Internet for work out inspo (Getty)

“Our bodies are designed to move and designed to adapt to the situations they encounter. So, if you stop using any component of your body, you will lose them slowly. e.g. you'll slightly lose strength if your body never encounter situations where one has to apply a strong force; you'll slowly lose flexibility if your muscles are never stretched very far; and you'll slowly lose some cardio-pulmonary capacity if you are never out of breath.”

Not only that, but keeping active can help to limit the loneliness and negative mental health impacts of being isolated for long periods.

“If your body is no longer as moving as much as it was before in the short term sitting down all day may make you depressed due to the sheer boredom it causes,” Thomas says,

There is also a biological reason for it too.

“Reduced movement means less blood flow and less blood flow means fewer feel-good hormones are moving through your body, helping you keep depression at bay,” he adds.

Common health guidelines usually recommend three activities per week that stimulate our cardio-pulmonary system, and about two activities per week that stimulates all our major muscle groups.

“As a general goal, we should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. However, if you can't fit in one 30-minute workout in the day, try a burst of a five-minute exercises instead,” Thomas suggests.

Swap the gym for an online workout

“The days of exercise videos are long gone, YouTube now has a wealth of free home workout content, walking you through each exercise, as if you had your very own PT in your living room,” explains Nutrition & Fitness Expert for Natures Healthbox Jenane.

He suggests giving some HIIT workouts a try for a short, sharp fitness hit. We’ve rounded up some of the best workout apps available at the moment at the bottom of this article, with some even removing their prices and offering free workouts. And if all else fails, there is also plenty available on Youtube.

Set yourself reminders to move. Photo: Getty

Schedule your fitness time

By creating a workout plan for your week. “You might want to set certain exercises for certain days, or break your week out by body part,” says Jenane.

“By treating it like a gym, you will feel more motivated. You should also record progress and results, so you can be sure to increase the intensity on the next workout.”

Find a designated exercise area

Ok so not all of us will have a full gym in our spare room, but it is important to create some kind of ‘exercise area.’ “Put on some music on your laptop and clear the area so you don’t bump into anything,” suggests Jenane.

And if you have a garden then try working out there. Studies have shown that exercising outdoors has some amazing benefits for the body and mind.

Find a workout buddy

“If you’re forced to stay at home, but house-sharing with someone, then you can both push each other to set some time aside each day to workout together,” says Jenane. “This way each one of you can push the other to stay motivated.”

If you do have to sit all day, sit well

“I always say that sitting per se is not bad, it’s how we sit and how long we sit for that leads to health problems,” advises Pilates teacher Kerrie-Anne Bradley

“Sitting well makes a big difference to your body, including helping to avoid desk-related back pain.”

Kerrie-Anne says there are some simple steps which can help ensure you are sitting in a way that keeps your body happy: 

  • Both feet should be flat on the floor. Toes pointing forward. 

  • Have a right angle at your ankle. 

  • Your knees should be pointing forward and tracking toes. Another right angle at the knee.

  • Sit on your sit bones. The bones under your bum. Sitting on these should create another right angle where your legs meet your torso. 

  • Have your ribs over your hips. 

  • Make sure your shoulders are wide and away from the ears. 

  • Have your head in line with your spine (pop your hands behind your head and press your head into your hands, that'll get that head back).

Set a get-moving reminder

The temptation might be to move from your bed to your sofa and back again, but being sedentary for long periods can have some pretty big impacts on health and life expectancy.

“We can get in a tendency to stay seated, whether working on the laptop or watching TV, therefore you should set an alarm on your phone for every 45 minutes to get up and do something,” suggests Jenane.

“This could be as simple as making a coffee or walking around while calling a friend. This can also help to increase concentration when you return to your task.”

Kerrie-Anne suggests getting up to move for three minutes every 30 mins.

Put on your gym kit

According to Dr Thomas Falda, simply putting on your gym gear can drastically change your motivation, mindset and mood.

“If you’re tempted to miss a workout put your gym clothes on first thing. If you look the part, there’s no reason not to exercise, even if it’s just for a little bit,” he says.

“Especially if you’re isolated at home there’s no reason why you can’t put on your gym gear first thing in the morning, as you know you will be able to exercise by the end of the day.”

Designate a work out space (Getty)

Breathe yourself healthier

If finding time to exercise in these coronavirus-laced times is too tricky, try to focus on your breathing.  

From helping to calm your nervous system, feel energised, stretch your back muscles and feel generally well, according to Kerrie-Anne big breathing has so many benefits.

She suggests trying this big breathing exercise:

  • Place your hands on your bottom ribs, thumbs on the back-bottom ribs. 

  • Inhale through your nose to a count of five sending your breath to the bottom ribs (your hands will move away from each other). Concentrate on breathing into your thumbs especially. 

  • Exhale to a count of five through your mouth. Thumbs return to their starting place. 

  • Do 10 big breaths a few times throughout the day.

Workout apps to keep you fit while staying home

Everyone loves a free workout app, but during these challenging times even some of the best paid fitness app providers are offering free workouts to help those stuck at home.

Nike Training Club

The Nike-branded app has over 185 free workouts for all levels. Workouts include strength, endurance, yoga and mobility training. Over time and regular use, the app it will get to know what users like to do and start offering recommended workouts based on those preferences. More information here.

Sweat - BBG, PWR

The Sweat app, which features workouts from fitness stars Kayla Itsines and Kelsey Wells and more normally costs $19.99 a month. However the Sweat trainers have been sharing some of their favourite workouts on their Instagram pages as well for people to see what they can do at home. More info here.

Keep It Cleaner

Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw, founders of health and wellness program Keep It Cleaner (KIC), are hoping to help others stay active at home by offering free live workouts via the KIC Facebook page. The workouts will be equipment-free and streamed live on Wednesdays and Fridays at 7am, with the first session starting tomorrow on the 18th March.

28 by SamWood

Former Bachie star Sam Wood now runs his own online fitness program called 28 by Sam Wood. The 28-minute high intensity at-home workouts are designed to be completed in the comfort of your own house, plus they're kid-friendly, so they're perfect for busy parents. Sam has set up free live workouts via his Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Bodies by Rachel

Bodies By Rachel specialises in workouts that can be done from anywhere, anytime. The mobile app gives you access to in depth, easy to follow, at home workouts (no gym or gym equipment necessary), as well as diet and recipes tips and tricks to reach your fitness and health goals. The BBR team have also released free online resources to support their community during this time. Get a free week of workouts here.

Adidas Training by Runtastic

The Adidas app offers workouts that are anywhere from seven to 45 minutes long. There are more than 180 workouts with detailed demonstrations, and users can join any level of tiered membership for added features. More information here.

Down Dog

So that anyone who wants to practice at home can do so, the Down Dog community is making all of its apps - Down Dog, Yoga for Beginners, HIIT, Barre, and 7 Minute Workout - completely free until April 1st. You can learn more about all five of these apps at https://www.downdogapp.com/

Daily Yoga

Guided daily yoga moves from beginner to advanced, it’s a yoga app for everyone. The app has over 60,000 reviews, and devoted followers worldwide. More information here.

With additional reporting by Marie Claire Dorking.

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