5 Ways to Make the Most of Our “Indoor Time”
By Laura Pucciarelli
It’s natural for everyone to need some downtime, some time to relax and unwind. Whether we’re forced to stay inside due to a pandemic quarantine or for other reasons, the feeling of boredom is almost excruciating. There’s only so long we can sit and relax until that feeling of guilt sets in because we’ve been unproductive compared to our usual daily routine.
Whether you’re a current exerciser or someone that never quite jumped on the fitness bandwagon, you can take full advantage of your time in isolation and incorporate some exercise into your day. And for those who loath the thought of exercising, call it strategic movement. Let’s move our muscles. Let’s get that blood pumping and let’s feel revived and invigorated …. even if we are stuck indoors.
It’s as easy as one, two, three … four and five:
- Sit-to-Stand – Start with a firm, cushion-less chair, such as a kitchen chair or a folding chair. Push the chair up against a wall so that it will not slide or move as you are using it. Begin in a seated position on the chair with feet firmly fixed on the floor, then slowly rise up out of the chair, with your head up and your eyes looking at something straight ahead.
* Special note – always keep your head up and your eyes focused on something when rising up out of a chair, toilet, car, etc.As you rise up, remember your arms go down. You could place your hands on the arms of your chair if needed, you can place your hands on your thighs as you’re rising up, almost as if you’re pushing off, or you can simply keep your arms down by your side. Remember to press your heels and toes into the floor as you rise up (and lower yourself). This will help to ignite the muscles that are needed for this movement.Now, raise yourself up out of your chair into a standing position. Then slowly lower yourself back down to a seated position, then right back up again. Repeat this raise and lower exercise 10 to 15 times. Whether you realize it or not, you are using a bunch of different muscles: your leg muscles, your core muscles and of course, your heart. You’ll definitely feel your heart rate go up as you progress through this exercise.
* Special note – lower yourself with as much care and control as you raised yourself, meaning don’t flop back into your chair. And never allow your heels or toes to lift off the floor when your land back into your chair.
- Walking/Marching in Place – This is hands down, the best way of sneaking in some cardiovascular exercise without a lot of fanfare or the need for equipment. Just get up and walk/march in place. Lift those knees up, and MOVE. There are a lot of fun ways to add walking/marching into your day, even if it’s during a monotonous day of isolation.Start your day with a one-minute walk/march, then set a timer or a friendly reminder, as I like to call it, to walk/march three to four more times each day. Just a minute or two a few times per day will leave you feeling great. Get that blood pumping.Another fun way to do this is to walk/mark for one to two minutes at the top of each hour (12:00, 1:00, 2:00, etc.), or to get up and do either in place during each commercial when watching TV. Most commercial breaks are 90 seconds. Those 90-second walks/marches can really add up.
- Balance Beam (no equipment required) – Stand toe-to-heel starting with your right foot in front. Have a wall or chair close by in case you feel off balance or unsteady. Stand tall, engage the abs, press your toes and heels firmly into the floor, relax your upper body and stand as straight as you possibly can without any movement for 30 seconds.Doing this exercise helps refresh the brain and remind it to keep us steady, while in turn, the brain then sends many quick signals to the muscles in our lower legs, ankles and feet, reminding them that they need to wake up and help keep us upright and steady. Repeat with left foot in front for 30 seconds.
* Special note – if at any point you do feel unsteady, most often a simple tap of your finger on the nearby wall or chair is enough to steady you.
- Straight Leg Raise – This exercise can be done seated or standing. Start by extending your right leg out in front of you so it’s completely straight. Holding it approximately 15 inches off the floor, raise your leg slowly in the up position, then lower it back to its starting position (never lower), then right back up again. Do this 15 times, then hold it in the up position for 10 more seconds and tighten or “squeeze” that muscle, as I like to say.That final squeeze is an isometric exercise which is a very effective method of exercising. Do this full circuit of 15 times raising and lowering, then holding, twice on the right leg, then repeat on the left leg (15 times up and down, hold 10 seconds, then repeat again). Do two full sets on each leg.
- Pelvic Tilt – This is a fabulous exercise for working your abdominal muscles, which are one of the main muscles groups in our core, or center of the body. They are a “helper muscle” for almost every move we make throughout the day.A pelvic tilt can be done standing up or lying on your bed. If standing, you want your feet shoulder width apart with your heels and toes pressed firmly into the floor. Once you have a strong base, bear down on your abdominal muscles, while pressing back and up with your pelvis. You want to remind yourself with every repetition to pull in and tighten your abdominal muscles, while pressing your pelvis back and up. Essentially you are tightening and releasing your ab muscles in short little bursts as a means of fatiguing them. It works!In an exercise like this it pays to do high repetitions. Start with one set of 20 to 25, and as your ab muscles get stronger, try to increase your repetitions to between 30 and 40, or do two sets of 20 to 25. If you want to do this exercise while lying in bed, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet firmly on your bed. Then pull your abs in and turn your pelvis back and up as stated above, repeating 20 to 25 times.
Try these exercises. Take charge of your down time. Turn it into a time to make a better, stronger you!
Laura Pucciarelli is a Certified Personal Trainer and Health Educator.