There’s a reason “COVID curves” and “the Quarantine 15” are now commonplace terms. We’re moving less during this topsy-turvy period: A preliminary study published in May led by Iowa State University and Trinity College Dublin reported an average 32% reduction in physical activity once social distancing went into effect.
Being active is a huge health boost. It improves mood, reduces stress, increases energy, enhances brain function, lowers risk of chronic disease and so much more. And research published in medical and health journals continues to emerge supporting the idea that unless you’re training for something specific, like a marathon, short bouts of exercise throughout the day have the same benefits as continuous workouts.
Here are a few ways to sneak in some extra movement.
Move while you wait
Use the time it takes to brew coffee or boil water to rotate through 10 reps of each of these.
• Kitchen counter push-ups: Stand facing the counter and place your hands on the edge just slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep your arms straight and step your feet back so your body forms a plank. Keep the heels lifted, abdominal muscles engaged and back straight. Inhale and bend your elbows out to the side as you lower your chest to the counter. Exhale as you push back up.
• Side lunges: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward. Take a wide step out to the right as you press your hips back while keeping the left leg straight and both soles of the feet on the ground. Push yourself back to the starting position and lunge to the left.
• Milk jug swings: Grab a bottle of milk. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold the jug with both hands. Bend your knees, shift your weight into the heels, lower your butt and bring the jug between the legs. Drive through your heels and simultaneously straighten your legs and extend your arms horizontally in front of your chest, contracting your abdominal muscles and squeezing the glute muscles as you rise. As the jug descends, shift your weight back into the heels, hinging at the hips and returning to a slight squat.
Multi-task your muscles
Find moments throughout the day to incorporate movement into mundane tasks.
• Toothbrush squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your chest up, bend your knees and push your hips back until the back of your thighs are parallel with the floor. Pause so you’re not using momentum to push back up. Then, drive through your heels and press back up to standing.
• Vacuum lunges: Step into a full lunge when vacuuming or mopping, and you’ll engage the lower body and abdominal muscles. As you reach the vacuum forward, step one foot forward, bend the back knee and lower straight down. Keep your torso straight and abs in as you push through the front heel, pull the vacuum back and return to standing. Alternate legs.
• Dishwashing lifts: Lift your heels and come up onto the balls of your feet as high as you can. Squeeze your glute muscles at the top and lower your heels.
Walk while you talk
Take that work call outside for a walk. Start by asking if it’s OK to do so, and let them know they might hear some background noise. For their privacy, use earbuds or headphones. Then pick up the pace as much as you can without huffing and puffing while you talk. Remember that not every meeting is walk-and-talk appropriate.
Zoom and move
When you can’t slip outside for a walking meeting, turn off the video and sneak in a short desk workout or stretch session. Again, consider whether it is appropriate for you to do so.
• Trash can taps: Stand in front of a small garbage can and shift your balance to one foot and then tap the edge of the can with the other. Repeat. Speed up to make it more intense.
• Triceps dips: Scoot to the edge of your chair (make sure it’s stationary). Place palms flat on the edge of the chair with fingers facing forward. Lower yourself until your elbows are bent back between 45 and 90 degrees. Keep your back straight and close to the chair. Press into your palms to straighten your arms and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
• Standing hamstring curls: Stand in front of your desk and lightly hold onto the edge for support. Shift your weight onto your left leg, bend your right knee and bring your heel to your butt. Lower the foot. Repeat 10 times and switch legs.