You may have found many of your daily routines becoming more restricted during the current health crisis and it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise. With the challenges of working from home and limited access to fitness facilities, it can be challenging to stick to a workout routine. You may be missing the camaraderie of the gym, the relaxation of swimming laps, or the social connection from walking or hiking with a group of friends. If you were used to attending a fitness class with a motivating instructor, you might be disappointed in the intensity of workouts at home and on your own.
A Paleo lifestyle includes moving your body in many ways as often as you can. However, maintaining an exercise routine at home can seem more like a ‘should’ than a ‘want to’ at the moment. Combine that with all those who find themselves out of work and struggling financially, staying active can seem like much less of a priority. However, even a small amount of daily movement and activity can make a huge difference to how well you think and feel. Exercise is one of the most powerful tools for staying physically and mentally healthy.
Exercise can help ease depression, stress, and anxiety, reduce inflammation, boost immunity and aid in the management of chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Staying motivated and incorporating movement provides you the opportunity to take charge of your mood and well-being and regain a sense of control during this time of uncertainty.
Physical activity releases endorphins, chemicals in your brain that revitalize your mind and body, that can help to improve all aspects of your health. In addition to boosting your mood and improving sleep, exercise can also strengthen your immune system, something that is particularly important at this time
If you use exercise to keep up your energy and spirits in trying times such as these, you might be less inclined to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including emotional eating and drinking, which can also wear down your immune system.
Whether you are working at home or homeschooling your children or you are unemployed and worried about finances, this is not the time to undertake a challenging new fitness plan. Consider your energy levels any ongoing health concerns, and the time you have available. Set reasonable goals focusing on activities you enjoy. You are more likely to stick to an exercise plan if you start small, celebrate your successes, and build up gradually.
Rather than aim to “get in better shape,” set a concrete goal such as “walk 30 minutes in the morning on Monday/Wednesday/Friday.” Try one of the many fitness trackers or smartphone apps available to keep a record of your progress, or simply use a calendar to note the length of your workout, distance, and effort level. Tracking your progress can help keep you accountable, provide a sense of accomplishment, and encourage you to keep going.
Prioritize Your Activity
People who put their fitness activities on the same calendar as their regular appointments tend to stick to their plan. You wouldn’t cancel your appointment with your doctor because you were busy with work or were not in the mood. Scheduling encourages you to fulfil your obligation and then return to work afterwards.
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Many people who maintain a long-term exercise program workout in the mornings. Completing your fitness routine in the morning can energize you and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. Others find it helpful to take a break from work and get moving in the afternoon when their energy is flagging. A burst of activity can stimulate the brain and help you push through the rest of the tasks on your to-do list.
Share Your Goals
Tell a friend what your goals and routines are or post about it on social media. You are less likely to skip a session if you know your friends will be asking about how you got on. Finding a workout buddy can also help keep you on track. Set up regular times to exercise together (a social distance visit or on a phone or video call work too) and offer each other support and encouragement.
As with exercising at any time, it is important to be safe, wear good footwear, start slowly, and give your muscles and tendons time to adapt to any new activity. Always seek your physician’s advice if you have any underlying health conditions and if you feel pain during an activity, STOP.
Unless your area is under a stay-at-home order or you need to remain in quarantine, try to exercise outside as much as possible. Take a walk, go for a run or ride a bike outside. The fresh air and sunshine will provide a further boost to your mental health.
Keep It Interesting
Watch your favorite streaming show or listen to a podcast or some great music while working out. While walking, explore a new area in your neighborhood or catch up with a friend on the phone to keep things from getting stale. You could even try your hand at activity video games that simulate dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or tennis. These can be great alternatives if you are unable to participate in the real thing.
Immerse yourself in the full experience of walking outdoors by adding a mindfulness element. Notice the smell of the air, the variety of flowers and trees and the feel of the sun or the wind or the chill of the air as you move. Bringing your attention to these things can give your conscious mind a break from your worries and unleash your creativity. You might find new ideas and solutions coming to you when you weren’t even aware you were working on them.
You may have always wanted to try yoga, Pilates, barre exercise, line dancing, cardio funk, or HIIT (high-intensity interval training). There are so many online classes available to sign up for (and many are free) or download an app to guide you from the safety of your own home. Many people find they are more comfortable trying something new when no one else is watching. You just might find your new passion! Don’t be intimidated to try something new and refine your online search to be more specific to your needs, like ‘yoga for beginners, ‘golf-specific exercises’ or ‘Pilates for over 50’.
Play catch or tag, go for a bike ride, shoot baskets, or pass the soccer ball with your kids. Taking the focus away from schoolwork or chores and playing together can even help repair a strained relationship.
Spending more time at home can mean sitting more, watching TV, working at the computer, being on Zoom meetings. There are, however, still ways to incorporate more movement into your day. Try to think of physical activity as a lifestyle choice rather than as a designated event. Getting up every 30 minutes to move for a few moments can add up over the day.
- Intersperse household chores into your sitting time: vacuum a room, scrub a sink, do some yard work, or wipe down your appliances.
- Move around while you are on a call, stand for an online meeting, do squats or lunges while you’re waiting for a meeting to start, or jumping jacks in front of the TV during the credits or commercial breaks.
- Try short bursts of movement like countertop push-ups or air squats while you are waiting for the kettle to boil or the oven to heat up.
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How Much Is Enough?
It is important to remember that when it comes to exercise, something is always better than nothing, but too much of a good thing can be detrimental too. Listen to your body! Going for a walk around the block will not only stretch your legs but will also help clear your head. It might even inspire you to walk a little further the next day.
The current recommendation for adults is to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week (or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity) with two sessions of strength building activities per week. This works out to approximately 30 minutes of movement, five times per week. It is perfectly fine to do this in one, or more sessions and adding in more if you are able. Two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute workouts can benefit you just as much. Include warm up and cool down time as part of your workout along with heavier activities around your home or garden.
If the current situation has made it difficult for you to partake in your favorite forms of exercise, it can be normal to feel a little frustrated. Avoid being too hard on yourself and continue to experiment with new workouts until you find something that you enjoy. If you feel your motivation to get moving starting to wane, focus on how much better you will feel after even a little exercise.
It also helps to give yourself an extra treat as a reward for sticking with your exercise program. Take a long, hot bubble bath, for example, make (or order) your favorite nourishing meal, or call a friend or family member.
Remembering why you follow a Paleo lifestyle and the healthy habits you build now, can help you to stay healthier and happier far beyond the challenges we are currently experiencing.