Top 10 Creative At-Home Workout Ideas

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By: Dr. Rebecca Van Heuklon, DPT, FAFS, FMR

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been encouraged to stay home and as a result, our normal routines have been disrupted. Unfortunately, that has led gyms and exercise studios to close temporarily, requiring us all to get creative with our workouts. So, how do you stay active while stuck at home and keep from getting bored?

Here are 10 tips on how you can maintain and improve your fitness level while staying “Safer at Home.” If it has been a while since you have exercised, make sure that you are healthy enough to be able to exercise safely. You may need to consult with your doctor or physical therapist before starting a new workout routine. Also, be sure to clear the room. Double check that the environment around you is clear of any objects you could trip on or bump into, including pets who are itching to join in your workout. Nothing squashes your motivation to start working out like knocking over that new big screen TV!

10. Let’s get it started! One of the best ways to get motivated is to get the entire family exercising with you! And nothing is more motivating than an all-family dance party! Take turns at the DJ turnstyle (or Youtube video selection) and your heart will be racing by the middle of the first song. Another great idea? Get out that Wi and pop out some great alternatives to the same old mundane work-out routine, like DDR, competitive sports, Kung Fu boxing, bobsledding, balance challenges, and so much more!

9. Use what you’ve got! If you don’t have weights or machines, use what you already have around you. Check your closets for those old Therabands or resistance tubing you may have bought a while back or were given when you were in physical therapy. Just make sure the bands aren’t brittle or cracked, as they can snap if they are too old. Put all those cans of beans and soup that you have been stockpiling to use, as they make perfect small hand weights! For heavier weights, you can utilize socks filled with pennies, or fill a bottle or milk jug with water or sand. You can also put multiple cans in a box, fabric bag, or backpack to squat with or carry up and down the stairs. Bonus workout points for creativity!

8. Body weight is your friend. Some common functional strengthening exercises that take advantage of body weight include squats, lunges, pushups, prone and side planks, mountain climbers, calf raises, and triceps dips, just to name a few.

7. Use the stairs– the original and free StairMaster. Nearly all of us in the Midwest have a basement, allowing the perfect method to get your heart rate up and work your glutes and quads at the same time. Not only can you truck it up and down a flight of stairs multiple times, but you can also use variations to get an even better strengthening workout routine, including repetitively stepping up and down sideways or backwards. Just be careful and use the handrail as needed for safety and balance.

6. Get outside. Exercising outdoors provides a wider variety of activties and offers much more entertaining scenery than the four walls you have been staring at all day. Being cooped up in the house can make you feel claustrophobic, anxious and stressed, so take advantage of any opportunity you have to get outside. Take a walk or bike ride in your neighborhood. Check out this link for the many different hiking trails and paved paths you can take advantage of right here the Fox Valley. Other ideas to stay active include gardening, doing yardwork, shooting some hoops in the driveway, hitting a few golf balls at a local park, playing croquet, throwing a game of cornhole, or setting up a net for badminton in the backyard.

5. Find your muse on YouTube. There are a ton of different types of workouts you can view on YouTube including Yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, HIIT (high intensity interval training), dancing, functional strengthening, and stretching. You can search for beginner, intermediate, or advanced routines to find the level that is right for you. What better way to try out something new than in the privacy of your own home? Now is the time to play with different types of workouts and find what inspires you to stay active.

4. Combine cardio and strength training. It is common to gravitate more towards one versus the other, but for optimal health and weight management, it is best to incorporate both cardio and strengthening in your exercise routine. Shoot for 30 minutes of cardio, 5 days per week, for a total of 150 minutes weekly. Cardio includes any exercise that maintains an elevated heart rate at minimum 100-120 beats per minute. If 30 minutes at a time sounds overwhelming, you can still get the same benefits from breaking your exercise into 10-minute bouts of activity throughout the day. For strength training, spend 2-3 days per week on each body area, or perform strength training 5-6 days per week by alternating arm/leg/core days. For ideas on where to start with strength training, check out our Build a Better Body Series for the perfect exercises to get your started.

3. Don’t forget to warm up! It is important to properly warm up and prepare for activity, including loosening up your joints, especially if you are going to be doing higher intensity workouts that challenge your mobility like running, kickboxing, HIIT, or dancing. Walk, do a couple rounds up and down the stairs, or do a dynamic warm-up in your basement or down a hallway that could include a series of high knee walking or running, lateral shuffles, butt kicks, heel and toe walking, walking knee hugs, walking toe-touches, walking lunges, caterpillar walks, and more! If you have some trouble spots that tend to be tight, you can follow this functional warm-up with some light stretches for those specific spots before jumping into your goal activity.

2. Plan a virtual workout “date” with a friend. Or schedule a video session with a personal trainer. Either way, these specific times devoted to exercise set in stone in your schedule with someone else will help you stay accountable. Starting a more active lifestyle and maintaining it can be difficult, especially when you are isolated at home. Another option to keep you accountable if you were previously going to a gym or working with a personal trainer is to work with your trainer remotely. They are able to set up a customized exercise routine for you at home and can video chat with you to ensure good form or modify and progress exercises as needed.

1. Find what works for you. In the words of Adriene Mishler, a popular yoga instructor on YouTube, “find what feels good.” When you are working through a new exercise routine, it is important to listen to your body and let it tell you what is okay and what is not okay. There may be some trial and error in finding what intensity and activity gives you a solid workout and challenges your body without causing pain or injury. Also, keep in mind that there may be some movements or activities that your body cannot do safely. Avoid anything that causes pain or does not feel right. Modify exercises as needed to keep you active and to prevent onset of new symptoms or aggravation of on-going pain issues. If you do get new onset of pain that does not subside with rest or are unable to exercise due to an on-going orthopedic problem, contact MotionWorks Physical Therapy at 920-215-2050 for information on options for physical therapy services including in-clinic visits, Telehealth, and E-visits to help keep you active and healthy.