Exercise in Lockdown
Some tips for you and your team
We all know that exercise is good for us. We also know it has major benefits both mentally and physically. However, the reality is, most of us will admit we do not do enough of it! Our physical and mental health is now more than ever, so important to manage and maintain. With this in mind, let’s have a look at some basic tips to get you and your team active in lockdown!
As we sit in the middle of lockdown #3, the past 10 months have been unprecedented and tough on everybody. However, the key word in that sentence is “sit”. We are being asked to stay at home to reduce our movements and with the majority of people working from home, our lives can become even more sedentary, which is detrimental to our long-term health.
Movement is the key. You don’t have to take on a marathon. A little bit every day can go a long way to keeping your body fit, and more importantly in the current climate, keeping your mind positive and healthy. Here are a few basic ideas to get you moving and stay active in lockdown.
This one is as simple as it gets. If you have a smart watch or fitness tracker, it will give you a push and tell you it’s time to get up and move every hour. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) recommend that for every 30 minutes we spend sitting at a desk, we should stand up and move for 1-2 minutes. Just because you are working from home, this recommendation doesn’t change. When we sit at a desk (or now kitchen table, dining room lounger or whatever home setup you have) for a long period of time, our bodies start to seize up.
The longer we sit, the more the blood circulation around the body slows down and muscles can begin to become lazy and slowly deteriorate over time. You may feel no pain or discomfort from this today, tomorrow or even next month, but continuous extended periods of sitting static at the laptop/screen, will have adverse effects on our musculoskeletal system. Getting up every half hour and moving around the house for 1-2 minutes is a great way of encouraging muscles to move and create blood flow.
Everyone’s schedule is different, and everyone’s level of physical fitness is different too, so there is no specific formula for this. You know your own body and your own schedule, so fit this in around your limitations. If you can get out for a 5km run in the middle of the day, brilliant. If work does not allow it, get going at 7am before work, or 7pm when you are finished for the day. Likewise, if 5km is too much, a 10-15 minute walk (high tempo or leisurely stroll) you chose. The key here is increasing blood circulation around the body, activating muscles, getting away from computer screens and taking in the fresh air. These activities increase endorphins in your body and will help make you feel fresh and energetic.
Buy a Skipping Rope
You may consider a skipping rope as either something for the children to play with on the street or for a professional boxer to use but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Skipping is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise which not only works your body aerobically, but it also encourages you to concentrate on coordination during the exercise. It’s a great escape from the laptop/screen to get the body moving, the system pumping and your mind working on something other than work or lockdown worries.
Like everything else, start off slow. You are not competing against anyone else; this is solely just for you. Try 5 minutes a day and you’ll very pleasantly surprised at how quickly you gain momentum, get faster and before you know it, you will be ready to try some fancy tricks to add to your skipping routine.
Okay, so it’s winter, which means it’s tough to get outside for running/walking/skipping. Here are a few ideas which can be done from the comfort of your own home. You may have already heard about HIIT sessions, they have become increasingly popular over the past few years. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and generally consists of a small number of exercises, done for a certain period of time, with a rest in between, and repeated.
A basic example of a HIIT session to do at home is as follows:
- Push ups for 20 seconds
- Rest for 10 seconds
- Sit ups for 20 seconds
- Rest for 10 second
- Squats for 20 seconds
- Rest for 10 seconds
- Run on the spot for 20 seconds
- Rest for 10 seconds
That’s 2 minutes of work which will fly by when you get into it. You can then repeat this for as many rounds as you are comfortable to do. If you can do 5 rounds, that is an effective 10 minutes HIIT session which will get your entire body moving, muscles working and blood flow pumping around the body. The beauty of the HIIT session is that you don’t need a lot of space to perform the exercises and everything can be done at home. You also don’t need any equipment, body weight exercises are very effective and can be safer than lifting equipment, especially if you haven’t been shown how to lift properly.
You can also play around with different exercises and different time scales of work to make sure you are getting variety and keeping it interesting for yourself. You can do the exercise for 30 seconds and rest for 30…exercise for 15 seconds, rest for 15…variety is the spice of life.
Why not get your team or work colleagues to join in with you and set a few challenges? A great challenge for people to engage with one another is the plank challenge. You are not necessarily competing against each other, it’s more of a team effort to endure together.
The plank challenge is where on the hour, every hour, you get up from your desk and assume the plank position. You then start the time and stay in the plank for 1 full minute. Over the course of the day, you will have performed 8-9 minutes of planking for the day.
The plank position is where you get down on the ground into a press up position and then allow your arms to bend down and rest your body on your elbows and forearms. The trunk of your body (or torso) should be completely straight and in line (try not to have your bum up in the air or drop under your body) a straight posture will protect your back and engage your core.
One minute may not seem very long, but the plank is not an easy exercise to hold. When starting out, as always, only do what you can do. Do not push yourself too hard as you could strain muscles.
The benefits to this challenge are that it will get you up from the desk and moving on the hour. It engages your core muscles and activates muscles in your lower back & glutes (all of which can “turn off” and become lazy when you sit for long period) and increases blood flow. By incorporating your team or colleagues, it gives you a chance to interact and chat to each other regularly and about something other than work or the pandemic. Even fire up Microsoft Teams or whatever platform you use, and video call each other whilst doing it for the minute. Make it fun.
This again is something that is easy to achieve, fun to interact with colleagues on and beneficial for your body and mind. As I mentioned earlier, if you have a smart watch or a tracker device, it will keep track of how many flights of stairs you have climbed in the day. So why not set a challenge with your colleagues to see who can reach the highest numbers through the working day.
It’s a slightly different to the steps challenge that is commonly used these days, and for good reason. Some people can get very competitive with these challenges and if we set a steps challenge, they could spend their day out walking the streets, with no constructive work being done. ?
The stairs are beneficial as they won’t provide too much of a distraction to your working day, they will encourage you to get moving and although you may hate climbing stairs a lot of the time, the incline is great work for the lower body and gives your quads and calf muscles great exercise. Which is what they need after being static under a desk for long periods of time.
Lockdown lifestyle can encourage a more sedentary way of life than before and it is easy to get caught up in the days rolling into each other with minimal movement or exercise. As you can see, it only takes some small tweaks throughout the course of your day to get moving and to add some exercise to your daily routine. It will make your body feel fresh and will improve your mindset also. Exercise gives you more energy, it doesn’t take it away. Start slow and work within your limits. Soon you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can push these limits, time and time again, if you stick with it.