(May 26, 2020) – With many of us staying home more to practice physical distancing, it has changed a lot of our daily routines. One area some find challenging is making sure they stay active with gyms and recreation centres closed. Our experts at Unity Health Toronto gave us some tips on how to maintain – or start – a physical activity regimen from home.

Chantal Sinclair, wellness coordinator and registered kinesiologist

  1. Take care of your body throughout the day

If you’re working at a desk during the day, it’s easy to forget to move. Every hour or so, do some mobility work: roll your shoulders, do some hip openers, side-to-side lunges, twist your torso, squeeze your shoulder blades together.

  1. Warm up before doing static stretches

Static stretching, or holding a stretch for a period of time, is best avoided unless your muscles are warm. Do some cardio, such as jumping rope, doing jumping jacks or jogging on the spot, as part of your routine and save the static stretches for last.

  1. Be creative with what you have

You might be used to using equipment at the gym or rec centre, but chances are good you’ve got something almost as good at home. Cans or laundry detergent can be used instead of weights. You can use face cloths or tea towels as sliders on a hardwood or tile floor to do mountain climbers. Use a chair to sit back into as a guide to help you maintain good form while doing squats.

  1. Consider the Big Three

I’m a big fan of Dr. Stuart McGill’s work and find the Big Three to be highly effective exercises that require nothing but a mat on the ground; the curl up, side bridge and bird dog build endurance and are great for people who experience lower back pain.

  1. Make it social

If you love the environment of a group class, try connecting with friends to join the same online class together or schedule a video chat to exercise. You can also have a friendly virtual competition using step counters on your phone or a smartwatch. Getting social with physical activity also helps keep you accountable to one another when you need a little extra incentive.

Kary Unana, physiotherapist with Providence Healthcare’s Orthopaedic and Amputee Rehab unit

  1. Build physical activity into your day

Instead of trying to set aside 30 minutes each day, which can be difficult with work and childcare demands, try to build physical activity into your routine. During your workday, take five minutes to exercise when you get up from your desk as little breaks. If you have kids, incorporate physical activity into playtime by lifting them, squatting with them and running around together.

  1. Try not to lose motivation at the beginning

The hardest part is getting started but once you’ve formed a habit, it will feel good and you’ll enjoy it more. Sticking with it will help build these healthy habits.

  1. Try dynamic exercises that tick multiple boxes

Dynamic exercises target more than one muscle group. One of my personal favourites is burpees. They work your entire body, are good cardio and help with functional movement. Going up and down stairs in your house or building involves cardio and strength building. Lunges and squats are great options that include elements of stretching and strengthening.

  1. Good posture is key

Good posture is really important both at rest and during activity. It helps engage your core muscles and can prevent injury. Sit up straight when you’re at your desk/table. If you’re getting tired during exercise, it’s better to do fewer, longer repetitions of an exercise with controlled motions than to rush through more repetitions with poor posture.

  1. Variety is the spice of life

Having a routine is great and can help keep you on track, but changing things up is important to help keep exercise fun too. If you have an outdoor space available to you, go for a walk, run or bike ride. Do an online class. Play with your kids, pets or housemates.

Sinclair and Unana are in agreement that physical is important now more than ever.

“Exercise can help improve confidence, clear your mind and is a great preventative for many health issues,” said Unana. “It contributes to your overall health so try to keep at it, even when you can’t hit the gym.”

“This is a challenging time all around,” said Sinclair. “Physical activity can help with our mental wellness by releasing endorphins so there really is no better time to get started.”