This summer, many Ohioans turned from gyms to the great outdoors for exercise to stay safe from COVID-19. Now, cooler temperatures have arrived, and you may find yourself tempted to stay inside.
But dropping temperatures shouldn’t mean you drop your exercise routine! As winter approaches – especially during a pandemic – it’s more important than ever to commit to daily activity and connect with others. Your mind, body, spirit and neurologic health will thank you!
“If you don’t take care of your body, no one else can do it for you,” says Lauren Esposito, manager of the OhioHealth Neuroscience Wellness Center. “Exercise is a way to be kind to yourself, carve out time just for you and boost those healthy chemicals we release while exercising.” Esposito says exercise can also provide a sense of normalcy, when COVID-19 is disrupting a lot in life.
So, don’t cool off fitness for the season, crank up the heat! These five tips will help you take your workout routine indoors so you can stay active all winter long.
Create a safe and inspiring home fitness space
The secret to sticking to an at-home fitness routine is enjoying your space. Exercising in an unfinished basement surrounded by storage containers isn’t exactly motivating.
- Bring an outdoor element inside: Choose a space that has plenty of natural sunlight or bright light, open a window or add a house plant.
- Adjust your temperature: You should feel cool – but not cold – while exercising. If you choose to exercise in a warm room, you may become hot and overheated during your workout. Consider opening windows or adding a fan.
- Keep the equipment simple: You don’t need a complete home gym system. A yoga mat, resistance band and two sets of dumbbells (one light, one medium to heavy) should do the trick. In lieu of weights, you can use household items like a basketball, water bottles or canned goods.
- Keep it all together: Your equipment, clothes and water bottle should be stored together in a cupboard or storage basket, so you have no reason to delay your workout.
- Have access to an open wall or corner: Whatever space you choose, make sure there’s a wall to provide support during exercises as well as a corner for balance support and safety.
- Choose a safe, clutter-free surface: Exercising on carpet may be fine for activities like yoga with a mat, but cardiovascular movements that include turning or twisting are unsafe on carpet. A firm surface, such as a wood floor or a layer of rubber gym flooring, are safer options.
- Look the part: While it may be tempting to get fit in your flannel pajamas, wearing proper exercise clothing and shoes is important – even at home!
Commit to a program
Easing into a new routine doesn’t have to be complicated or require a $2,000 indoor bike. The key is choosing a fitness plan that you can easily access, easily follow, and is suitable for your fitness level.
- Bust out your exercise plans from physical therapy: Did you hold onto your exercise recommendations from your last physical therapy session? Use them!
- Access free resources on the web: Esposito recommends Fitness Blender to many of her patients, as there are free workout videos available for every fitness level. She also recommends a variety of YouTube series, like ChairFit with Nancy.
- Download an exercise app: There are several exercise apps available for purchase that offer all kinds of fitness programs. OhioHealth has a partnership with a nationally based fitness app called Wellthon that creates a custom fitness plan based on your fitness level and limitations. The exercise plans focus on avoiding injury while building strength, stability and support. They even have a free 30-day trial!
- Find a live, online exercise class: Like other fitness centers, OhioHealth offers options for at-home neuroscience wellness. In September, we launched two virtual 12-week wellness programs: MS Wellness and OhioHealth Delay the Disease Wellness for Parkinson’s disease. Twice a week, participants exercise together via Zoom and participate in an education session.
- Follow an exercise book: There are exercise books available online that walk you through step-by-step exercises created specifically for your neurologic condition, such as OhioHealth Delay the Disease’s Exercise and Parkinson’s books and DVDs.
If going to a gym helps you stick to your routine, be sure to assess the safety measures the facility is taking to protect you from COVID-19. Consider asking:
- When are peak hours? If possible, avoid the gym when it is more crowded.
- What specific precautions are you following to keep your gym safe and clean?
- What have you done to go above and beyond the state’s guidelines for reopening gyms during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Commit to your plan
- Modify, modify, modify: Esposito says just because an exercise routine demonstrates a move in a specific way, that doesn’t mean you have to do it exactly the same. “If they’re doing squats or jogging in place, and you need to hold a chair, hold a chair,” she says. “Use whatever program you’re following as a guide and encouragement.”
- Break your workout up: Hit pause during a video or break up your workout into 10-minute chunks throughout the day when you’re feeling the best or are able to fit it in.
- Stick to a schedule: While a nice space and fancy fitness trackers are nice, nothing is more important than being consistent in your routine. We’ve created a schedule you can download or print off to plan and track your workouts each week. Be sure to rest or choose active recovery days to get the most out of your routine!
As always, consult with your physician, neurologist or physical therapist before starting a new routine.
Tap into technology
Technology has really helped the fitness space thrive.
- Consider investing in a smart TV or streaming device: These days, many TVs come with capabilities to easily download fitness apps. You can also purchase a low-cost streaming device and connect it to a standard TV. If the setup seems daunting, ask a family member or neighbor to help. Following along with a video program can help ensure you do the moves correctly.
- Set goals on your fitness tracker: Winter months can make it difficult to reach your steps milestones. Setting daily goals and reminders to move throughout the day can help keep you on track. “You need something that holds you accountable to what you’re doing,” says Esposito.
- Create a virtual accountability group: Gather your friends or family and create a virtual fitness group via email, Facebook, or text to help set goals and stick to them. Whether it’s nutrition, planking, or taking time to meditate, setting goals together can be fun and motivating.
Put your mental health first
Physical health is just as important as your mental health. And your mental health can sometimes prevent you from sticking to an exercise routine.
- Get outdoors each day: Don’t underestimate the benefits of exercising or getting outdoors occasionally – even during the winter. Sunlight still increases levels of vitamin D and enhances your mood. But be careful! Outdoor exercise in the winter can increase your risk of falling. If exercising outdoors isn’t safe, consider drinking your morning coffee on the front porch!
- Download a mindfulness app: Download a mindfulness app, such as Calm, Headspace or 10 Percent Happier. OhioHealth also offers an online Mindfulness program.
- Download our weekly exercise tracker!
OhioHealth neuroscience is here to support you on your wellness journey. If you’re looking to get connected to a neuroscience wellness program, email NeuroWellness@OhioHealth.com.