5 Home Exercises to Do During the COVID-19 Crisis

With gyms closed and uncertainty of how much longer we’ll be required to work from home, you may have started wondering how all of this is going to affect your waistline. Not only the endless stress eating, boredom snacking and maybe indulging a little too much in meal delivery services, but also in your lack of exercise. If you’re a normal exerciser, not having access to your normal gym equipment is definitely throwing a wrench into your routine. However, if you are not a normal exerciser, there’s no better time than now to use this lockdown as a way to ease your way into physical activity. 


Staying sedentary too long isn’t good for our mental and physical health, especially heart health, nor is it great for our metabolism. However, when keeping your bottom glued to the couch is practically government mandated, you may feel demoralized at the lack of options you have. That’s why I’m going to give you five exercises to do at home that will get your heart pumping, keep muscles active and help you manage your weight. 


Most of these exercises use big muscle groups which will get your heart pumping. I’ll offer tips on how to make them more intense. I’ll also include variations to make certain strength training moves more cardio-based (**) for people who are actively trying to lose fat rather than just maintain their weight. HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been scientifically proven to be the best form of exercise for fat loss and the best part is you don’t require any equipment to get it done.


1.) Squats

    • Start with your feet hip distance apart.
    • Keeping your knees over your ankles, start to sit your butt back as if you’re sitting down and bend your knees. Be careful not to arch your back and keep your spine straight on the way down
    • Keep sitting until your butt and hips are parallel to the ground. This is the squat
    • If you can go deeper without your knees going far over your toes, even better
    • Flex your butt and thighs and push your weight through your heels to raise up
    • Do this 12 times as a set and perform 3 sets. 

**HIIT/Cardio variation: Instead of raising up at the end, include a jump rather than standing and land your jump directly into the squat (position c above).

**Higher intensity variation: Add more weight to this exercise by getting creative with household items. I hold a 25lb case of chicken broth during my squats, but anything similarly heavy (but comfortable to hold) like water jugs will also do. 


2.) Lunges

    • Keep your hands on your hips for balance
    • Step your working leg forward ahead of you with the back leg hip distance apart until you are in a split stance like you are taking a large step. The heel of the back leg should be up off the ground.
    • Bend your front knee, by sinking down, NOT by pushing the knees over the toes. Keeping the front knee over your ankle.  
    • The end point is when the front leg makes a 90-degree angle.
    • Push into your front heel to rise up to your starting split stance and go again
    • Do this 10 times on each leg as a set (20 lunges total per set) and perform 3 sets. 

**HIIT/Cardio variation: Rather than standing in one place, walk into your lunges. If space is limited, perform jump lunges by pressing through your front heel to jump up and land back inro your lunge (position d above).

**Higher intensity variation: As safely as you feel comfortable, hold a heavy object with both hands directly above your head during your lunges. This will work your shoulders at the same time. 


3.) Burpees

    • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your weight in your heels
    • Sit your hips back and bend your knees into a squat
    • Place your hands on the floor directly in front of, and just inside, your feet Now shift your weight onto your hands.
    • Jump your feet back to land (softly!) on the balls of your feet into a plank position. 
    • Be careful not to let your back sag or your butt stick up in the air as to keep the core engaged
    • Jump your feet back up so that they land just outside of your hands in the position you started at c.
    • Stand up and reach your arms overhead 
    • Push off your heels to explosively jump into the air. 
    • Land and immediately sit back into a squat for your next one.
    • Do this 10 times as a set and perform 3 sets. 

**Neighbor variation: This is already an intense cardio move which is not kind to downstairs neighbors! To make it a little less intense/noisy, step your feet back into a plank position and, after standing, jump softly

**Higher intensity variation: Add a pushup to your plank position. This also helps with intensity if you’re trying to keep quiet. If you’re feeling really crazy, do the entire burpee sequence on one leg.


4.) Push Up

    • Start in a plank position with arms fully extended and palms just wider than shoulder-width and placed just next to and outside of the chest
    • Press your palms into the floor and keep feet together. Engage your thighs and core as if holding a plank to keep the lower body stiff throughout the exercises.
    • Bend elbows back at 45-degree angles to lower the entire body toward the floor. Do NOT let them flare out to the sides.
    • Pause when the chest is barely touching the floor. 
    • Exhale and press into your palms to push the body away from the floor to return to starting position, moving the hips and shoulders at the same time.
    • Keep your neck neutral and gaze slightly forward on the ground. Do not tuck your chin.
    • Do this 10 – 20 times as a set and perform 3 sets. 

**Lower intensity variation: If you have trouble doing push ups (I, as a very fit woman, can tell you I’m in this group!), you may sit on your knees during the movement and hold most of your weight in the heels of your hands.

**HIIT/Cardio variation: Do 10 steps of mountain climbers at the top of each push up before descending again. You perform mountain climbers by planting your hands in the position described above and running in place.


5.) Plank

    • Fully extend your arms and plant your hands directly under shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder width) like you’re about to do a push up.
    • Plant your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to stabilize your body. 
    • Neutralize your neck and spine. Your head should be in line with your back.
    • Keep your body straight, like a plank! This means being mindful that your butt isn’t sticking up too far in the air or that your hips are sinking too close to the ground. 
    • Hold for 20 seconds, remembering to breathe and tighten your core. 
    • Do this 3 – 5 times. 

**Lower intensity variation: Rather than staying in a high plank with your weight in your hands, lower down onto your forearms. 

**Higher intensity variation: “Walk the plank” by alternating feet. Lift one foot up for 3 seconds during your plank before switching to the other. You can also make this more intense by planting your hands into a medicine ball, crate, or other object with enough height to challenge your core against more gravity.


The bottom line? Do NOT attempt any new exercise regime without consulting your doctor if you are over the age of 60, have a history of or are at risk for heart disease or if you have any other underlying health problems. Stay safe out there!

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