It's safe to say that everyone could use more exercise nowadays. Gyms and yoga studios are closed, and people who are self-distancing and working from home as directed are likely to be drastically less active compared to their pre-coronavirus selves. At the same time, the coronavirus crisis has made life more stressful, and exercise is always one of the best ways to burn off anxiety.
What kinds of exercises and equipment will help you get a good workout while you're stuck inside? We asked fitness and health experts to recommend the best home exercise equipment, as well as easy exercises you can do for free with things around the house, without any special gear at all. Here are recommendations if you're trying to break a healthy sweat during the quarantine.
Best Home Exercise Equipment
TRX Training Slam Ball: $24.95
Karla Luster, a Richmond, Virginia-based ACE-certified personal trainer and yoga instructor whose exercises can be found on the YouTube channel Fit Outside the Box with Karla, highly recommends the Slam Ball for at-home workouts.
"I love this timeless, low-cost piece of equipment because it’s small and sturdy. Plus my clients love slamming it to take out their aggression," she says. "Even if you live in a third-floor apartment, you can use it for strength, cardio and stability exercises, then when you’re done, it’s easily stored in a closet or under the bed until your next workout."
It's the classic stay-at-home dilemma. You want to get a workout in, but you're also deep into rewatching The Office for the seventh time. To quote a popular meme, why not both?
Luster recommends the Step Aerobic Platform, so "you can easily get all of your recommended steps in with minimal space, whilst watching your favorite shows on Netflix," she says. "If you live in an apartment, your neighbors won’t hate you because it’s fairly quiet when done correctly. Getting your 10,000 plus steps a day is way easier."
Yoga Mat: $32.95
You probably have a yoga mat around the house. If you don't, Emily Chen is a New York City yoga teacher and the founder of Alchemy School of Yoga, likes the Hugger Mugger brand, which "delivers the same quality mat as all the other big-name brands, without the price tag." Even if you don't have a yoga mat, some soft carpet or a towel on the ground can serve as a decent spot for cardio exercises.
Morgan Rees, a Los Angeles-based ACE-certified personal trainer, recommends a sequence that includes burpees, up-down plank, pushups (knees or regular), stationary lunge, vertical leg crunch, bicycles, lying side crunch, and the "Russian Twist."
As always, a little bit of foresight is always better than accidentally hurting yourself. "If you do not regularly work out, and find yourself joining the in-home workout craze, I highly suggest taking the time to do your research," Rees says. "Find videos on Instagram and/or YouTube that instruct how to do each exercise. Watching someone do something and trying to copy is much different than understanding why you are doing the movement and how."
Jump Rope: $11.89
You can't beat a classic. You likely jumped rope on the playground as a kid, and even as an adult, it remains a great way to get that cardio in. "Whether you’re a pro jump roper and want to challenged your heart rate with double unders or you are getting back in the game and just looking for a little cardio, the jump rope can be your best friend," says Emily Stubler, a Santa Monica, California-based Equinox Group Exercise Instructor. "With countless jump rope variations, step counts, and movements, you can ramp up or down the impact and intensity for how you feel that day."
If you're looking to gain muscle, but you don't have the space to have a bunch of weights around the apartment, try investing in resistance bands. Paul Strobel, a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and personal trainer, recommends the Whatafit Resistance Bands Set, which allow you adjust your workout from not too hard (the equivalent of lifting 10 pounds) to challenging (50 pounds).
"What makes resistance bands particularly useful for stay at home fitness is the vast amount of exercises you can cover. Lots of people opt for dumbbells or monstrous machine rags, but resistance bands allow you to cover a full-body workout routine while gradually increasing the tension as you progress in strength," he says. "Not only are they remarkably handy but they're also very cheap. I'd recommend the ones that feature an ankle strap and a door anchor in particular, as that'll allow you to do a lot more exercises."
Bosu Balance Trainer: $109.98
Courtney Virden is a Los Angeles-based pelvic floor expert and fitness trainer, and she says that "my favorite piece of exercise equipment is a stability ball," particularly anything from the Ohio company Bosu. "There are hundreds of exercises that are challenging that you can do with just a ball," she says, adding that "if you have room and the budget" you can combine a Bosu ball or balance trainer "with a set of light weights. This will provide you even more options and help you get great workouts with minimal equipment and room."
Best Exercise Ideas With No Equipment Needed
If you're not sure you want to spend any money on equipment or online courses, there are plenty of exercises you can try using everyday household items. Rees advises people to "use what you have at home and if possible, move some furniture around to create a space where you have room to do exercises."
She recommends pushing a chair against a wall, and using it for tricep dips and squats. Make sure that the chair forms a 90-degree angle, and get to work. Rees recommends cycling between "split squats with one foot on the chair and one on the floor, push-ups with your feet on the chair and hands on the ground, and hip thrusts with your feet on the edge of the chair and your back on the ground."
Lifting weights is, obviously, a great way to gain or maintain muscle mass. But if you don't have any weights at home and aren't inclined to hit up Dick's Sporting Goods at the moment, Rees recommends creating makeshift weights by filling empty water bottles with dry beans.
"If your goal is to primarily maintain muscle mass, choose weight that fits a specific rep range. Program for yourself. Don't just guess the reps and sets you'd like to do," Rees says. "Write down the weight and how many reps you were able to do in your exercise. Next time, see if you can either do more reps, more weight, or more sets. Over time, work your way up to increasing the overall volume and intensity of your workout."
Best Exercise if You're Working From Home
We're all sitting around a lot on our butts these days — and it's not healthy. "From a muscular standpoint, one of the biggest effects of extra sitting time is that our glutes essentially fall asleep," says Adam Swartz, a New York City trainer and co-founder of Transform Fitness Group.
"This occurs in two ways. First, the muscles themselves are literally being sat on, and the body will reflexively numb an area that is receiving such treatment," he says. "Secondly, our hip flexors — the muscles that help lift our legs — are in a compressed position while sitting. When tightened in such a way, they send a signal of reciprocal inhibition to the glutes, that is, the glutes are cued neurologically to relax. The longer we stay in this position the more relaxed and numb the glutes become. Without the glutes working properly, our lower back muscles and knee joints will bear more loads and problems can build up in either places."
What exercises are good to counteract too much sitting at a desk? Swartz has a few recommendations.
Step One: "Set a timer. Stand up at least every 30 mins," he says. "Walk around. Get off your butt."
Step Two. "Every time you stand, take 10-20 seconds to actively squeeze your butt while pushing your hips forward," he says. "This will activate your glutes while stretching your hip flexors."
Step Three: If you want to get serious, Swartz says you can "try a machine like The DB Method, an at-home squat machine specifically designed to isolate, activate and strengthen the glutes. And when your glutes get sore, which they most certainly will after ten minutes a day, you can switch working on your abs, arms and chest with the machine."
Best Workout When You Don't Have Time
If you are working from home with a busy job, looking after your kids and trying to keep your place from looking like a pigsty, you might not have a lot of time for exercise. Which is why Dr. Alex Tauberg, a Pittsburgh-based Chiropractor, recommends the 7-minute circuit training workout, which is available via several phone apps.
"This seven-minute exercise routine uses high-intensity interval training and circuit training together in order to achieve optimal effects,” Dr. Tauberg says. “High intensity interval training otherwise known as HIIT is a type of training in which the participant does the exercise at near maximal intensity for a short period of time and then rests for a short period of time."
It takes seven minutes to get through one "rep." While Dr. Tauberg says two to three reps are recommended, even a small amount of exercise is better than none.
"You are essentially moving during the whole seven minutes and at the same time doing exercises that promote strength development. This allows the workout to be a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise," says Dr. Tauberg. "There are 12 different stations each exercise is done for 30 seconds and then there is a 10 second transition period between exercises."
The recommended circuit is as follows:
- Jumping jacks
- Wall sit
- Abdominal crunch
- Step-up onto chair
- Triceps dip on chair
- High knees in place
- Push-up and rotation
- Side plank
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