There is no pill or shortcut that comes even close to what exercise can do for our minds and bodies. The universal truth of physical activity being good for us, however, doesn’t stop at heart health, weight loss and improved mood. There are many more surprising proven benefits such as:
– Improved skin condition – Decreased rate of aging – Improved quality of sleep – Sharper memory – Quicker learning – Help in managing addiction – Increased creativity – Quicker recovery from infection & illness
During lockdown restrictions or periods of self isolation, countless exercise apps, online classes and social media videos can help us stay motivated when our usual routines are thrown out of balance. But keeping fit during lockdown doesn’t have to be simply running or doing crunches in your living room – get creative with more unconventional workouts and small ways to sneak movement into your day.
Exercise is for everyone. Whether you are a seasoned sports enthusiast, have reduced mobility, are pregnant, elderly or have a busy work and family life, use the below ideas to help you break a sweat for 30 minutes every day in any which way that works for you and your available space.
Home Olympics – Set up a selection of ‘events’ with your family such as arm wrestling, limbo, longest timed plank, tug of war, balance challenges and Sumo (see below). You can make things more competitive by each picking a country to represent and setting up a score leaderboard. Why not join in with your friends via Zoom or take the Olympics to the beach/garden with outdoor events like rock shot put, long jump and stick javelin?
Wrestling & Sumo – Create a simple indoor circular arena using tape or in the garden with a trail of flour, sticks, rope or anything you have handy. For a Sumo match, contestants must push their opponent out of the circle or for freestyle wrestling, the winner is whoever manages to pin their opponent on their back for a few seconds. You could even get creative with colourful costumes, face paint and stage names.
Animal Flow – Animal Flow is a series of ground based, body-weight exercises designed to improve strength, flexibility, balance and mobility. The movements can be adapted and have elements of yoga and natural animal movements which greatly improve power and core strength. You can find plenty of free YouTube tutorials or follow the likes of Francheska Martinez for daily ‘primal movement’ workouts.
Housework – Although this might not be most people’s idea of fun, lockdown is the perfect opportunity to complete those often neglected chores like a good bathroom scrub, deep oven clean or hand car wash; all of which will get your blood pumping with the added bonus of killing nasty germs. Even good old fashioned jobs like polishing silver, rug beating, treating old wooden furniture and cleaning windows can be a substantial upper body workout!
Boxing – You can easily enjoy a home boxing workout and learn some skills without the need for expensive equipment, a partner or even gloves. Shadow boxing is one of the best cardiovascular workouts and, in addition to beginner technique videos readily available on YouTube, Bas Rutten’s Boxing Rounds on Spotify are a high intensity winner. If you do want some target practice, a makeshift laundry bag stuffed with clothes will do the trick.
Build a Home Gym – Greatist has an excellent list of 21 DYI gym equipment projects on a budget. If you’ve always dreamed of having your own home gym, but thought it’d cost a pretty penny – think again! From makeshift TRX straps, sand bags and paper plates as ‘sliders’, there are plenty of creative ways to organise a private workout space whilst your local gym is closed.
10 Today – 10 Today broadcasts simple 10 minute routines that get older people stretching and moving, via the radio or audio clips and videos online. The exercises focus on mobility and balance, can be done standing up or sitting down and are adaptable to different fitness levels. You can also tune in on Bradford BCB Radio 106.6FM, broadcast 2:00pm Monday to Friday or Cornwall CHBN Radio 100.8 FM, broadcast 10:10am Monday to Friday, and follow along.
Hula Hooping – Surprisingly, hula hooping can be a really effective and low impact full body workout. All you need is, of course, a hula hoop which can set you back between £1 (kids hoops) and £25 (weighted adult hoops). It’s perfect for any age as it doesn’t strain your joints, is easy to learn, develops stability and a strong core and improves posture. Try adding arm exercises, lunges, squats and some tricks into your routine to improve co-ordination.
Couch to Fitness – Similar to Couch to 5K (see below), the Couch to Fitness Programme is a free 9 week schedule with 3 videos per week (about 30mins each) which you can follow from the comfort of your own home. The classes are lead by 3 coaches, all working to different levels of intensity so you can pick which one suits you best.
PE at Home by Guernsey Sports Commission – The PE at Home programme provides students with a YouTube playlist of videos focusing on fundamental movements which would be practiced in regular school P.E. lessons including throwing, balancing and jumping. Each video is short and easy to follow and can be replicated at home or in the garden with minimal equipment and supervision.
Change 4 Life Accessible Activities – Change 4 Life campaign by the NHS has a section dedicated to activities for kids and young people with disabilities. These are inclusive can be easily adapted to anyone based on ability, age and personal interests. The 10 minute Shake Up Games are particularly engaging and easy to complete throughout the day.
Peloton – Peloton offer a 2 month free trial of their sleek app which allows new users access to an impressive library of classes including strength training, yoga, running, stretching, bootcamp, meditation and even dance cardio. You can choose to use equipment or none at all and work out alongside other online users. Tracking your progress is easy too with thorough metrics which can connect to other devices such as your smartwatch.
Dancing – Nothing gets our endorphins flowing and cheeks rosy like dancing. Put on your favourite track and let loose in the privacy of your own home (even whilst cooking, cleaning, getting dressed or walking outdoors). You may prefer to follow a routine or guided Zoom class like Debbie Duport’s or Exercise Roadshow’s free themed dance workouts. Why not up-skill and give something less conventional a go like infectious Capoeira, learn the lively Charleston or even Cossack dancing if you have the agility?
Seated Exercise – For those less mobile, there are some gentle chair based exercise classes available from the likes of Joe Wicks and Debbie Duport. The NHS has also compiled a handy list of stretches so everyone regardless of their mobility can keep their joints and muscles supple. If it’s sunny, why not complete your seated exercises on your doorstep, porch or garden and get your fill of Vitamin D for the day?
Cosmic Kids Yoga – A Yoga, mindfulness and relaxation YouTube channel and app for kids. Interactive adventures which build strength, balance and confidence – and get kids into yoga and mindfulness early. You can choose the classes by durations and there is a handy ‘PE Essentials for Homeschooling’ playlist perfect for creating a regular lockdown exercise routine.
School of Calisthenics – Aside from their virtual classroom, School of Calisthenics videos can be found free on their YouTube channel. The tutorials are more challenging, such as the pistol squat and frog stand so should be attempted with caution by beginners. There are however, plenty of troubleshooting exercises for common mobility issues as well as useful stretches and short workouts suitable for all levels.
Down Dog – A Yoga app perfect for those that get bored easily, Down Dog mixes up a configuration of thousands of sessions so you don’t have to do the same routine twice. The ‘Yoga For Beginners’ version is suitable for those with zero experience as you are lead through each simple pose by a calming voice and music you can choose yourself (including acoustic and nature sounds). Chair Yoga and Meditation sessions also available within the app.
Use What You Have – Remember celebrity workout videos, the Thighmaster, Dance Mat and Ab Roller? Time to have a clear out of your attic/shed/garage and dig out forgotten technology and toys and have a good laugh using them. Dust off the Wii, pull out childhood toys like pogo sticks and nunchucks and see if you’ve still got the skills; they’re still just as effective at getting you moving!
Gardening – Time to re-pot those sad plants which have outgrown their home and dig up weeds, ready for spring. Gardening utilises a multitude of muscle groups and can burn substantial calories depending on the gardening task – digging, raking and mowing are particularly effective. Being around nature and plants also regulates our mood and digging in the dirt can improve our dexterity and bone density. MindBodyGreen has a few good tips on turning your gardening time into more of a workout.
Skipping – Not just for boxers and small children, skipping with a rope burns major calories as well as improving bone density, co-ordination and breathing efficiency. It’s completely portable, has lower risk of knee damage than running and is almost free (you may be able to borrow one for free from your local gym). You can learn the boxer speed skip and some fun tricks to keep you occupied for hours or set challenges against your friends and family.
Beach Clean – The Clean Earth Trust lend out (sanitised) litter picking kits as part of their ‘Pick It Up Guernsey’ initiative, in order to facilitate everyone to do their bit for the environment during their daily 2hrs out and about. It’s the perfect opportunity to help local flora and fauna by tidying up your usual walking route, and teach young ones about environmental responsibility whilst getting fresh air and some exercise.
This Mum Moves – This Mum Moves is a great resource for expectant or new mums who are either already active or thinking about starting and need some advice and inspiration. You can download free handy infographics for both pregnant women and those getting active after childbirth which you can stick on your fridge as a daily reminder. There is also a Active at Home page for isolation/lockdown workouts which is kept updated by antenatal and postnatal experts.
Sea Swimming – If you’re brave enough, an icy winter dip is scientifically proven to be immensely beneficial for your physical and mental wellbeing. Island life provides us with the privilege of saltwater access all year round and 30 Bays in 30 Days has a useful map to help you choose your next local swim spot. You can also download one of many free swimming apps to keep motivated such as MySwim Pro or GoSwim. If you’re new to cold water swimming, Vivida Lifestyle has a handy article of top tips to ease you in.
Scavenger Hunt – The Woodland Trust has some creative ideas for nature themed scavenger hunts for little ones whilst The Spruce has ready made clues for your own indoor version. Why not organise a more physical photo-evidence based scavenger hunt outdoors with tasks such as ‘climb a tree’, ‘build a pebble castle’ or ‘dig a hole on the beach’?
Take the Stairs – When was the last time you climbed Constitution steps or up and down to Petit Port? Take inspiration from British Heart Foundation’s Stair Climb Challenge or the Mount Everest Virtual Challenge and with the help of a pedometer app, you’ll be climbing the equivalent height of famous buildings and mountains in no time. StepsApp is a useful tool for keeping track of your daily steps, as well as tracking movement for wheelchair users.
Couch to 5K – Couch to 5K is a running plan for absolute beginners. It was developed by a novice runner and involves 3 runs a week, with a day’s rest in between. The schedule progresses over 9 weeks with guided podcasts which instruct you on walking/running intervals and how to improve gradually. You can download the app for Apple & Android, the weekly podcasts from iTunes and the week-by-week breakdown from their website.
Jump in a Puddle – Jumping in Puddles for Cancer is encouraging islanders to raise awareness and funds for Cancer Research whilst having fun jumping in puddles. Let your inner puddle stomping child come out and share the joy via social media with tag #JumpInForCancer – it’s good for your mental wellbeing, builds up your immune system and supports vital research into cancer treatments. Don’t forget to donate and nominate 3 others to take part!
Visit Guernsey Routes & Trails – Use your 2 hour allocated outdoor time to explore lesser known routes and learn about local landmarks along the way with Visit Guernsey’s handy guided walking and biking routes. Each route is categorised by difficulty, duration and theme so a broad range of interests is covered. Why not take a more challenging route than you usually would or finish your walk with a brisk dip in the sea?
Star Gazing – With the help of free immersive apps like Star Walk 2 and SkyView Lite, star gazing can encourage both adults and kids to get outside in search of the perfect vantage point with less light pollution (but your patio or front porch can do the job). Once darkness falls, it’s also a much less busy time to go outdoors. What better way to end a stressful day than with a brisk walk finished with a flask of hot chocolate and a gaze at the starry night sky.
Small Daily Activities
Your Essentials Shop – If your weekly grocery or pharmacy trip is your only opportunity to get out of the house, why not wake up those muscles too? Park your car in the furthest space from the shop entrance and carry your shopping back instead of pushing the trolley. Or better yet, why not make the whole journey on foot? Bring a backpack, suitcase or push a pram to help with big hauls.
Standing Desk – When working from home, try to avoid sitting down for extended periods of time. Instead, alternate between sitting and standing at your workstation. Implement regular ‘Deskercise‘, try a lunchtime yoga session (see above) or complete a different stretch whenever you get up for a snack or cup of tea. Try these stretches by one of Bupa’s Physiotherapists.
Ad Break Plank – Use your telly time wisely. Whenever an advert comes on, get up and plank or hold a squat position for the duration of the first advert (usually 30 to 45 seconds). If you’re feeling energetic, alternate between the two exercises every ad change until your show is back on, otherwise stretch/make a cuppa/do anything to keep your bum off the seat until the show is back.
Extended Dog Walk – An easy way to increase your activity is to simply increase the duration or intensity of your usual routines. Make your habitual dog walk more challenging by looking for hilly paths, walk on beach sand or add a heavy weight to your backpack. Your pooch will appreciate the extra bonding time and you will return home feeling flushed and accomplished!
Penalty Exercises – Although exercise shouldn’t feel like punishment, this is a good way of curbing bad habits in the household whilst engaging in regular movement. Set a group of exercises (e.g. 10 push ups, squats, star jumps) as a penalty for offenders of house rules or hard to break habits, i.e. instead of a swear jar, leaving the milk out, every time you check Facebook. An easy way to rack up 100 repetitions throughout the day!
Kissing – Did you know that passionate kissing can burn up to 26 calories per minute? If you’re lucky enough to be spending lockdown with a loved one, kissing not only works your facial muscles but also enhances your immune system, lowers cholesterol and reduces stress. It may not match up to a run around the block but it requires almost no fitness ability and is certainly more enjoyable.
Catch a Sunrise – For early birds and shy exercisers, a good way to get your step count in even before most of the island has woken up is to walk/jog to your favourite spot to watch the sun rise. This can be a short and light-paced trip and the early morning light exposure will reward you with more alertness and better sleep at night. A yoga app like Down Dog (see above) can help you get more energised by completing some Sun Salutations whilst the sun rises.
Handicrafts – Although getting crafty may not seem like an obvious choice for keeping active, tasks involving dexterity not only release tension and reduce symptoms of arthritis but help achieve a sense of purpose and keep the mind sharp. Activities could include origami, pottery, sewing, basket weaving, making music or baking. Time spent kneading dough or clay by hand is always rewarded with a sweaty brow and stronger, albeit sorer, arms.
Volunteer – Even with just an hour to spare in the day, you can make a big difference to someone who needs support during this difficult time whilst getting some activity yourself. Why not become a Volunteer Driver for Health Connections or help you neighbour with groceries? A regular fresh milk and bread round to your neighbourhood by bike will stretch those legs and help those more vulnerable in our community.
Whilst EXERCISE is vital to living a happier and healthier life, don’t forget to pay attention to the other pillars of good physical health:
– REST – NUTRITION – HYDRATION – SLEEP
This list was researched and created by the Health Connections team in February 2021 (and updated in January 2022) to help improve the community’s wellbeing during island-wide lockdown. The charity does not profit or receive compensation in any way from the above links, brands and services and as such it is entirely at the readers’ discretion to follow advice or sign up for services offered by individual sources.
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