How to Stay Active When You Can’t Leave Home

Kids are out of school for at least the next couple of weeks, and many parents are working from home. With retailers, theaters, gyms and other businesses closing due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy for adults and children to lose their motivation to get moving. But you don’t have to go stir crazy. Juliana Marino, program director for the Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at UNC Charlotte, offers tips for how to keep your body and mind strong when stuck at home.

Why is it important to remain active during this time of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus?

We are all doing our best to navigate through this unusual and very challenging time. Many people are now working from home. Children are experiencing a major departure from their normal routines. Most fitness facilities are temporarily closing their doors. All sports and after school activities are on hold. The result of this may be a significant reduction in the amount of physical activity and exercise people are engaging in.

Although we are encouraged to avoid public places, this does not mean we have to be sedentary! It’s important for people to realize that it is possible to achieve the recommended amount of daily activity, even during these trying times — perhaps especially during these trying times. When faced with so many unknowns and uncertainties, people may experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise has been shown to reduce some of these symptoms. Exercise is vital for both our physical and mental well-being.

What exercises are best for staying fit while hunkered down?

Being active does not require any special equipment, nor does it require a gym membership. There is plenty we can do right at home.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (or a combination of both) each week. Moderate intensity exercise should cause a noticeable increase in heart rate, while vigorous exercise should cause a substantial increase in heart rate. Examples include taking a brisk walk or jog, riding a bike or even dancing. Adults should also aim to perform muscle strengthening exercise two times per week. This includes things like pushups, lunges, arm curls,and crunches.

Here’s a simple example of a workout that can be done at home

It’s always recommended that you check with your health care provider before starting an exercise routine, especially if you have any health concerns.

What about children who are out of school? What activities are best to keep them active?

Parents should model healthy behaviors, including physical activity. Play active games together or go for walks throughout the day. It is safe to spend time outdoors at parks or on walking trails, just remember to practice good hygiene and follow social distancing guidelines.

There are lots of age-appropriate fitness apps for kids and families.

Preschool age children (3-5) should be active throughout the day, every day. Kids in this age group should have no more than one hour of screen time per day. They can get their exercise through play.

Children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 should get a minimum of one hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day. This should include a combination of aerobic (jogging, running), muscle strengthening (squats, pushups), and bone-loading (jumping) activities.

What are some other tips for remaining physically healthy while at home?

With so many of our regular activities being off limits, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a sedentary lifestyle. This involves lots of time spent sitting and reclining with very low levels of energy expenditure (think watching Netflix on the couch). I would encourage everyone, adults and children, to avoid extended periods of sedentary time. Move more and sit less. If you are working from home, get up from your desk and move around at least once every 30 minutes. Stand while you’re talking on the phone. Adjust your workspace so that you can stand while using your computer or laptop. Finally, it’s important to remember that being active doesn’t include just traditional exercise, like running and lifting weights. Cleaning the house, pulling weeds in the garden and walking the dog are all forms of physical activity. Remember, something is better than nothing!

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