Many of us have found ourselves unable to go to the gym and searching for alternatives to help keep in shape while we stay home. Even for those of us who aren’t regular gym-goers—not going to the office and running our regular errands everyday can leave us feeling the need to expend that extra energy.
Whether you’re busy with family, work, or tucking into another juicy Netflix series—we have some tips for keeping your body energized and your mind sharp during your time spent indoors.
Stretching exercises like yoga are the perfect way to improve your physical and mental well-being with little or no equipment required.
This beginner yoga exercise is an excellent way to gently stretch your spine and torso as well as relieve tension in your neck. You can practice cat-cow pose either:
- Positioned with your hands and knees resting on the floor.
- Or seated with your hands resting on your knees and your feet positioned hip-width apart.
Look up and arch your back, pushing your chest forward while you inhale into cow pose. Then set your gaze downward, as you push your hands into your knees or the floor and exhale into cat position. Match your movements with a comfortable breathing pace and cycle through the two positions for between 5 and 20 repetitions.
Practicing a few balancing poses during the day will help you clear and refocus your mind. Tree pose is great for beginners. Start by standing on one leg and resting your opposite foot against your standing ankle with your toes on the floor. You can lift your foot higher up your ankle, calf, or inner thigh (so your legs resemble the number 4) depending on your ability to balance and flexibility. Raise your arms over your head if you feel confident in the pose. It’s a good idea to keep a chair nearby to hold onto in case you lose your balance.
Some more challenging balancing poses include:
- Eagle pose – helps open-up your shoulders.
- Side plank pose – excellent for arm and abdominal strength.
- Lord of the dance pose – a challenging pose that can be eased into from a standing quad stretch.
The great thing about forward-bending poses is that they help improve blood-flow to your brain, which helps with boosting mental clarity. A simple seated or standing forward bend will do the trick regardless of your ability to touch your toes.
Downward Dog gives you the flexibility and brain-boosting benefits of a forward bend, combined with a gentle arm strengthener. You can make your down dog even more invigorating by lifting one leg into three-legged downward-facing dog pose. Shift your hips forward and flatten your back into plank pose to get your arms and core working even harder.
Twists help you wind-down and limber-up your spine after a long day of sitting in a rigid position. Try a simple seated twist by keeping your lower body facing forward while you hold the back of your chair with both hands. Twist your spine and neck to look as far over your shoulder as is comfortable. You can also cross your legs and rest your opposite elbow on your top leg to help leverage your twist. A deep inhale and exhale can help you relax deeper into a twist.
This exercise will require you to slide off your chair and position your hands behind you on the seat shoulder-width apart. Start with straight arms and slowly lower your body with your elbows bending towards a 90-degree position. Keep your back close to the chair as you lower yourself as far down as you can (without sitting on the ground of course!). This exercise can tire out your triceps quickly, but you can repeat it up to 20 times.
Seated Hip Thrusts
This is another vigorous chair exercise. Grip the arms of your chair and sit on the edge of the seat so you can position your back at a 45-degree angle. Lift your legs to a 45-degree angle as well, so your body is in a v-sit position. Bring your legs into your chest and then push them out, extending them straight again. Aim for 20 repetitions.
For this super-simple chair exercise, position your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent 90 degrees. Hold the arm rests as you bring your legs towards your chest and then lower them back down again. You can either place your feet back on the floor after every repetition, or hover them just above the floor to add additional core work.
Use your chair to modify traditional workouts
Having a nice, solid chair is also great for approaching exercises that don’t normally require equipment from a different angle.
- Chair planks
- Running in place
- Russian twists and Bulgarian split squats
Chair squats are just like regular squats, but adding a chair helps you keep your form and prevents you from squatting too low if you have sensitive knees. You can also try squat calf raises by holding the back of your chair for support as you stand in a squat position. Maintain your squat while you lift your heels and stand on your tip-toes for about a second, then repeat.
Chairs are an accessible alternative for workouts that would normally be practiced with a ballet barre. If you’re not a trained ballet dancer, holding a chair for stability while you balance on your toes is important for the safety of your ankles.
Everyone has a floor to workout on, even if you need to clear some space in your bedroom to make room for some quick and easy floor exercises. Having an exercise mat helps make floor exercises more comfortable, but a regular mat or blanket works in a pinch.
This move works out your full body while providing a slight balance challenge. Position your body on your hands and knees and then lift one arm and the opposite leg so that they’re extended straight, parallel to the floor. After each arm and leg extension, bend your arm and leg towards your core. Bring your elbow and knee as close together towards the centre of your body as possible. Count the number of repetitions you complete and repeat on the other side.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Push your torso up so that your arms, shoulders, and feet are the only parts of your body touching the ground. Focus on keeping your hips elevated as you alternate between lifting each bent leg towards the center of your body. Aim for 10-20 repetitions on each side.
Get some more cardio in with this classic! Hold your body in a plank position, keeping your hips down as you “run” each leg as far towards the space between your arms as your flexibility allows. You can take each repetition slowly to focus on your form, or push off the floor as you alternate legs to really get your heart pumping.
Elbow plank push-ups
These are great if you struggle with regular push-ups but want to add more dynamic movement to your static planks. Start by doing a plank, balancing on your toes and elbows, then push-up one arm at a time into a straight-armed plank with your hands flat on the floor. You can do the same arm movements with your knees on the floor if it makes this workout more accessible. If you want to challenge yourself, try completing as many reps as you can in one or two minutes depending on your stamina.
Sphinx push-ups are a similar alternate plank exercise. Start in the same elbow plank position with your hands flat on the floor. Then lift both elbows off the ground simultaneously. Straighten your arms at an angle with the floor that’s closer to 45 degrees than 90 degrees. Complete each repetition at a similar pace as regular push-ups.
Sit-up leg touches
This movement combines abdominal work with flexibility. Lay on your back with your arms and legs outstretched in an X-position. Sit-up as you lift and turn the left side of your torso towards your right leg until your left arm and right foot touch each other. Alternate sides with each sit-up for 30 repetitions, or stick with one side for 15 reps before moving to the other side for 15 more.
This Floor routine from Angry Trainer Fitness is tough, but can be adapted for different fitness levels.
Remember that when it comes to breaking the stress inflicted on your body by a sedentary stay-at-home routine: any movement is better than no movement. You don’t need to commit yourself to a strict at-home fitness regimen to get the benefits of moving your body regularly throughout the day. Break up your daily routine with some simple stretches and build on your workout from there. If you’ve been wearing your comfiest sweatpants all day, why not break a sweat with some of these simple home workout routines?