Exercise classes are cancelled, gyms or closed (or they’re open, but you just can’t), the weather is getting colder every day, and walking outside is getting less and less appealing. But don’t give up on exercise! It’s easy to get out of the exercise habit when the way you were doing it before isn’t possibly right now, but exercise is important enough to warrant a little creativity.
If you’re stuck at home, you can still exercise, and there are powerful reasons to keep up (or start) this vibrant habit. Research shows that exercise can improve your quality of life by reducing your risk of most chronic diseases (especially heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, depression, and arthritis). In fact, research shows that the more people exercise and the longer they have exercised regularly, the less likely they are to die prematurely.
But exercise does more than just prevent illness. It also promotes wellness. Research supports the strong link between regular exercise and better endurance, strength, sleep, mood, energy, and sex drive. It’s also associated with less stress and lower body weight. It’s just about the most important thing you can do to feel vibrant, so don’t be discouraged by a cancelled kickboxing class or a shuttered gym. Instead, shift your focus to all the great ways you can get and stay fit at home.
Create a Home Gym
Anyone can create some version of a gym at home. You can DIY it with things you already have at home, buy a few basics, or go big and buy high-end exercise equipment. It depends on how much you want to do and spend. It doesn’t take any equipment (other than a good pair of athletic shoes) to do basic calisthenics like running in place, sit-ups, push-ups, Burpees, leg lifts, and planks. A brisk 5 minutes of walking or any other exercise to increase heart rate followed by calisthenics is a great way to start the day.
Add an exercise mat or yoga mat if you want more padding or if you do a lot of floor work/yoga. If you can’t go to yoga class anymore, look online for a wide selection of free yoga classes. Trying different teachers can add energy to your yoga practice. Strength training is great for your muscles, bones, and brain. A few dumbbells in different sizes are good for biceps curls, presses, and simple deadlifts. You can store all of these out of sight if you don’t have a dedicated workout space. These basic pieces of exercise equipment are widely available and inexpensive. You may also be able to find them used.
If you want to take your strength-training workout to the next level, you could invest in a weight bench and/or a step with adjustable risers, a barbell, some resistance bands, a stability ball, a kettlebell, and a jump rope. Add a mini trampoline, a ballet bar, a medicine ball, and a pull-up bar for even more options.
You can be your own personal trainer in your home gym by creating a circuit workout. Plan out a series of exercises and doing each for one or two minutes, then resting for 30 seconds before moving to the next one. For example, you could do one minute of kettle bell swings, rest, one minute of jumping on the mini trampoline, rest, one minute of sit-ups, rest, one minute of biceps curls, rest, and so forth.
It’s a digital world, and the internet is full of free and fee-based workouts of all kinds, from strength-training workouts and aerobics workouts to high-intensity interval training, yoga classes, and workouts from your favorite fitness celebrities. Some of the more famous fitness trainers have apps or memberships with a catalogue of workouts for all levels. A tablet or laptop computer in a stable and easily visible location gives you access to a whole world of exercise motivation and guidance.
If you really want to go all out, look into more extravagant workout equipment, like a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or exercise bike. If you like to put on your headphones and listen to your workout playlists, podcasts, or audio books, cardio machines may be a great option for you. If you like the class experience more, consider those bikes or treadmills that come with subscriptions that allow you to take live classes on the screen and compete with other people around the world, or one of those mirrors that projects a trainer you can copy. These can offer the support and motivation of a class or a personal trainer without ever leaving your home. Some of them are pricey but those who use them regularly say it’s worth every cent.
Go Outside Anyway
If working out indoors isn’t your style, maybe all you really need to do is get outside, even when it’s cold. Brisk winter walks are refreshing and once you get moving, you’ll warm up quickly. Also, research suggests that staying warm all the time can compromise metabolism and that mild cold exposure can burn more calories and convert inflammatory white fat to calorie-torching brown fat.
Think about our ancestors who lived outside. Personally, I’m glad we have warm, heated houses and don’t have sleep in the snow anymore, but letting yourself get really cold sometimes can invigorate your built-in thermal regulation systems, and that can make you more metabolically resilient. Some people do this on purpose for the beneficial effects with cold showers or plunge pools, but a walk on a chilly day will have the same effect. So bundle up sensibly (please don’t get frostbite!) but get out there into the fresh winter air and take a walk, or even a run, and let nature be your gym.
Whether you spend a little or a lot, or exercise indoors or outdoors, creating your own workout space and routine can be a great motivator. If it’s comfortable and you like to be in that space, you’ll be more likely to keep it up, but even if it’s hard at first, know that the more you do it, the better you’ll feel, and the more you’ll grow attached to your new vibrant habit.