Coronavirus: How to exercise while staying at home

The Green Goddess – the original keep-fit queen of the 80s – is making a comeback on BBC Breakfast. Eighty-year-old Diana Moran will be doing exercises three times a week from self-isolation so viewers can follow along at home.

So what else can you do to keep fit and healthy whilst heeding the new advice about staying at home?

“There are tonnes of things you can do from your chair or sofa – squats, tricep dips, crunches, bodywork exercises and so on,” says Cardiff-based personal trainer Keris Hopkins.

“If you have kids at home, you can get them involved. Make activities fun, like running around or playing hide and seek. Just keep moving,” says the 37-year-old, who has started filming workout videos at home for people to follow along.

“It’s important to plan your day – for example 7 am to 8 am work out online. It will help people find a focus if they plan. And if you can get outside, try to get your 10,000 steps done.”

Becky Hill and Kate Williams run Raise the Bar boot camps in Oxfordshire. For now, they continue to take place for whoever is able to attend – with people keeping at least 10 feet apart and equipment being cleaned between each use. But they are also launching an online version for people self-isolating, a move which many gyms and personal trainers are making.

Exercise “decreases stress and anxiety,” says Becky Hill, who is also a fitness trainer and therapist. Everyone is stressed at the moment and people aren’t sleeping she says. “But if you’re moving, you’re likely to sleep better.”

Woman doing exercise

But how much you can do, depends on which type of household you fall into says, Dr Charlie Foster, Head of the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences at Bristol University, who also advises the UK chief medical officers on physical activity.

If you are under 70 with no underlying conditions you can still be active outside as long as you stay at least two metres (three paces) away from other people. So walking the dog (or even your neighbour’s dog), going for a run or going for a bike ride is all fine – provided you keep your distance.

Public spaces such as swimming pools and gyms are not banned – but if you use them, be sure their equipment and surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned. And of course, you can do your bit cleaning any equipment you use. Dr Foster says it’s preferable to exercise outside.

Team sports are not advised for now – but tennis is ok for the moment as long as you wash your hands first, don’t shake hands afterwards and keep your distance.

If you are over 70 and self-isolating, pregnant or have an underlying health condition, but feel well, you can also go outside with the same caveat of keeping your distance from others.

For older people, strength and balance exercises are particularly important, says Jess Kuehne, senior program manager from Healthy Ageing, as muscle strength starts to decline rapidly after our 30s. She recommends yoga, tai chi, resistance training and seated exercises.

If you are self-isolating with symptoms, or someone in your household has them, you shouldn’t leave home but that doesn’t mean you should stop moving. It’s really important to use movement and activity as a way of breaking up your routine if you feel well enough. Cook, play active games, dance, go into the garden if you’ve got one.

If you are unwell – use your energy to get better and don’t try to be active. If you can get out of bed, then do so but don’t try to do too much.

Finally, if you are feeling better after having had the virus, return to your normal routine very gradually. We don’t know what the long term effects are but as far as we know, there is no reason why you can’t gently return to normal activity.

Of course, there are many fitness websites and online apps people can use to help find a routine with Daily Yoga workout and fitness and Calm, a meditation and sleep app currently among the most popular downloads in the UK.

And while you’re at home, tempting as it is, try not to eat everything in sight, Ms Hopkins reminds us.

“Aim to minimise stress. And try to use the time wisely – read that book, do an online course, learn a new language, clear out the cupboards. It will all help,” she says.