Many of us have put on a few kilograms over the course of COVID-19. Whether you are avoiding the gym or can’t stand the idea of running outside in 40 degrees, you don’t have to succumb to weight gain and lethargy.
A few good habits and some body weight exercises that you can do from the comfort of your home is all you need to get back on track.
Gary Leeman, a fitness expert in Dubai with more than 15 years of experience says that it’s better to think of health and wellbeing and look at the concept of fitness holistically instead of stressing over workouts and weight loss.
“By making simple daily changes in your life and then adopting those changes consistently, you put yourself in a position where weight loss becomes incidental rather than stressful. So I would encourage community members to first think of movement, hydration, eating healthy and sleep. Exercise is an integral part of this lifestyle.”
He says that a bit of planning and strategising goes a long way. “When working from home it’s easy to get stuck at your desk for long hours. I recommend getting up and doing a few stretches every two hours. Even two to three minutes of exercise will help ease your muscles and improve blood circulation and muscle activity.
“For those who work in an office, they can take the stairs instead of the elevator and they should also clock-in some stretching or walking time away from the desk. Not only does this protect your posture and back but also it is an effective way to get movement in your life.
“Keep bottles of water on your desk and drink regularly. This will help you stay hydrated. It’s also very important to plan your meal timings and snacks especially if you work from home because let’s face it -the fridge and pantry are right there! I recommend keeping junk food out of the house and replacing the pantry with healthy options. This still does not mean you can eat as many snacks as possible- so plan your meal and snack schedule in advance.”
In terms of exercise, he says all you really need is a mat, if at all, some good music would be a bonus and a dedicated time slot so that you are diligent with workouts.
“Simple movements and body weight exercises work beautifully to tone and strengthen the body. Get yourself a skipping rope to add in some extra cardiovascular exercise although exercises like burpees are fantastic for both strength and cardio.
“You could look up online workouts or check with your gym if they offer any online classes. There are plenty of options. It is important to work out according to your current fitness level and slowly progress to avoid any injuries. Getting 30 to 45 minutes of exercise four to five times a week consistently is the key to get fitter and keep you mind and body healthy.”
According to the World Health Organisation, regular exercise is good for mental health as well. It helps in reducing the risk of depression, cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia - and improve overall feelings.
Leeman says there are plenty of easy body weight exercises and a great way to begin your mornings is to stretch for a few minutes or practice Yoga sun salutations for three to five minutes.
Some simple body weight exercises to consider are:
Leg day may be the source of a million memes due to its gruelling nature – and how your lower body feels the next day – but it’s important to work your body’s largest muscle groups.
A standard squat – with or without additional weight – is one exercise that ticks off many of these: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals and calves. It’s also a functional exercise – you use these muscles in basic activities such as sitting down on the sofa or removing something from the lowest drawer.
The beauty of squats is that a small variation in the movement can work different areas. Widening your stance takes some of the onus off the quadriceps and emphasises the glutes and hips more. Adding a jump to the second phase of the squat (when you’re coming up) adds a cardiovascular element to this exercise.
After you’ve got your lower body fired up, it’s time to focus on the upper side. Like squats, press-ups also work a number of important muscles. A regular press-up, where the elbows are close to the body, exercises the pectoral muscles, shoulders and triceps. If you can maintain tightness in your core tight while doing these, press-ups offer a supplementary benefit to your abdominals too.
There are loads of variants with the press-up. Widening your grip works the shoulders harder, and making it narrower emphasises your triceps. Adding a quick clap to the routine after pushing yourself up at speed lends a cardio and explosiveness element to the exercise, while raising one leg on regular press-ups works your core harder.
Finally, placing either your hands or feet on a raised surface will change the muscular emphasis from upper chest and shoulders to lower chest and triceps, respectively.
Few exercises get your heart rate up as quickly as the burpee. If you include the variations – and there are well over two dozen of these – burpees work the glutes, quads, pecs, shoulders, core and calf muscles. The regular burpee is a good starting point for building your strength in the major lower body and core muscle groups though – it’s recommended to master this before moving on to more complex iterations of the movement. Standing on a mat with your feet at shoulder width, drop down into a squat position. Lean forward and rest your weight on your hands, which should also be in line with the shoulders. Kick both feet back so that your bodyweight is distributed over the hands and feet, then bring them back before pushing your body back up in an explosive thrust.
You can include a press-up to work your chest and shoulders at the stage where your body is balanced on hands and feet. Adding a star jump on your way up will tone your obliques, while throwing a mountain climber into the mix at the lower stage adds an additional core exercise.
You can do some sit-ups, a plank – you can begin with a half plank with your knees on the floor and then move to a proper plank once you have enough core strength. There are different variations for all levels. Leeman says, “A few daily practices done consistently can have a big positive impact on your health. Make it a purpose in life to enhance your overall health and well-being, that way you will not shy away from exercise – be it at home, outdoors or at the gym.”