COVID-19: Staying Active at Home

COVID-19: Staying Active at Home

Let’s just call it out: There’s a lot going on right now, and staying active at home probably feels like the least of your worries.

On the milder side of the spectrum, we have disrupted routines, loneliness, and cabin fever. On the other side, we have tremendous financial distress and heartbreaking loss.

In such a state, it might seem selfish, short-sighted, and inappropriate to prioritize something like exercise.

But exercise is one of the best things we can do for ourselves right now.

Why We Should Try to Stay Active at Home

While it can’t eliminate the pain of the COVID-19 crisis, exercise is a powerful way to improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, encourage productivity and focus, enhance immunity, get better sleep, and more.

Furthermore, due to social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates, exercise is one of the only safe (and permitted) outlets for releasing nervous energy and breaking up the monotony of always-at-home life. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, exercise can be a source of empowerment — of taking control during a situation in which very much is out of our control, of cultivating confidence in our own abilities, of showing ourselves that we can do something positive and productive in the face of hardship. And this empowerment can have a dramatic, positive effect on both other areas of our lives and on the people around us.

If you’re itching to incorporate more movement into your life but you’re not sure how, read on for recommended workouts and strategies for staying active at home.

At-Home Workout Routines and Videos

There’s way more out there than what I list here, but this should be plenty to get you started; the key is not to find the best workout, but simply to do something.

On-Demand Workouts

Live workouts

“Something that can be done at any time, often gets done at no time.” –Gretchen Rubin

While there are tons of videos and apps out there offering on-demand, at-home workout routines and videos, sometimes the flexibility of being able to work out at any time, as well as the overwhelming number of options, make regular exercise difficult to plan for and fit into daily life. 

This is where live classes come in. 

Many gyms, fitness studios, and coaches are offering free (or at least cheap) live classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only is this a great opportunity to support local fitness businesses and professionals, but it relieves you of the responsibility to pick a workout time and choose an appropriate routine.

Here are some recommendations to get you started:

  • ClassPass
    • Online platform that shows live classes hosted by gyms in your area. 
  • 305 Fitness
    • Dance videos on YouTube Live, everyday at 12p and 6p ET. 
    • Morning meditations at 8:30a ET Tuesday through Friday, also on YouTube Live.
  • Forward Space
  • YogaWorks
  • Gaga dance
    • Classes held daily at 9a, 6p, and 9p ET, and 9a, 11a, and 6p TLV. Schedules and links posted here and updated weekly.
  • Peloton (web and app)
    • Offering a 90-day free trial with access to thousands of both live and on-demand workout videos

Want more options? Check out this article for additional workouts hosted on Instagram Live.

Dom’s Workout Routine

For a real-life example of how to incorporate exercise while sheltering in place, here’s what I do:

  • Morning workout:
    • 30-min walk and/or run (+ stairs when I see them)
    • 25-30-min strength routine at home (alternating each day between arms, legs, and core)
  • Afternoon
    • Another walk, or Just Dance (about 20 minutes)
  • Extra movement
    • Hourly steps (my FitBit yells at me if I sit for too long)
    • Stretching here and there (mostly chest opener stretches to counteract the effects of working on a computer all day)
    • Spontaneous dancing (I listen to music while I work, so it’s easy to transition into dance mode for a few minutes at a time)
    • Alternating between standing and sitting when I have back-to-back meetings

Strategies to Keep Up with Exercise at Home

Of course, there’s a lot more to staying active at home than the workout itself — there’s the whole issue of actually getting yourself to work out. Here are some tips and strategies for folding exercise into daily life.

Pair exercise with another habit, regular activity, or common occurrence. 

  • Commit to watching your favorite TV show only if you exercise while watching it. 
  • Every time you open Reddit, do 10 jumping jacks. 
  • Every time you go to the bathroom, do 2 push-ups
  • Take 30 seconds between meetings to sneak in 5 push-ups, 5 squats, a 20s plank, or 5 jumping jacks. 
  • Every time you get up (to get a snack, unload the washing machine, run errands, etc.) don’t let yourself sit down in a chair until you do 5 push-ups, 5 squats, a 20s plank, or 5 jumping jacks. 

Build in accountability. 

  • Find a workout buddy who will follow the same workout routine as you, even if you can’t be in the same physical location while exercising. Check in with each other to encourage follow-through, and consider working out together over Zoom! 
  • Create a physical calendar in your living space that records your workout routine. Tell your cohabitants about your plan, and ask them to help hold you accountable. 
  • Email your weekly workout goals to your colleagues or friends, and include a retrospective on how you did on last week’s goals. 

Schedule it. 

  • Put a block in your schedule every day to fit in movement. Consistency typically works better (e.g., 8a everyday), but do what works for you. 

Clarify your goal(s). 

  • Are you trying to lose weight? Increase energy? Improve your mood? Strengthen your immunity? Whatever the case, clarifying your goal(s) to exercise, and recording it/them in some way, can help motivate change. 
  • Tip: Craft process-oriented goals that you have control over (e.g., 10 minutes of yoga every day) that align with your underlying motivation (like reducing stress); outcomes (like losing 10 pounds by May 1) are often out of our control, and we tend to throw good habits (like daily exercise) out the window once the outcome-oriented goal is achieved. 

Monitor your progress. 

  • Journal about the positive benefits you notice as a result of exercise. One approach: after each workout, jot down one word, such as “refreshed,” “energized,” or “happier,” that captures a positive feeling. Refer to these words when motivation is feeling low. 
  • Pick some physical representation of your progress. Example: Drop a coin into a bowl every time you complete a workout. Miss a day? Dump out the bowl and start over. The physical representation of your consistency and progress can be encouraging (especially if you don’t like to “break the chain”). Plus, once the bowl is full, you can buy yourself a fun treat. 

Make it fun. 

  • Opt for fun forms of movement – like dancing! 
  • Write down different routines on pieces of paper, put them in a bowl, and choose one paper each day to determine your workout. 
  • Play fitness-oriented games–Just Dance and Wii Sports if stuck inside; frisbee or (modified) soccer if you have a yard. 
  • Create a challenge with a friend or family member(s) — who can take the most steps this week? Who can hold a plank the longest? Who can do the most sit-ups in 5 minutes? 
  • Create a challenge with yourself — can you do X push-ups every day this week? What about Y squats next week? 


  • Focus on the immediate benefits of physical activity — anxiety/stress relief, improved mood, etc. (Just do 10 jumping jacks, and tell me you don’t feel better!)
  • Start today, and just do something. You don’t need a perfect fitness plan to get started, and you don’t have to be sweating profusely to reap benefits. Focus on whatever activity(ies) you enjoy and can do regularly, even if that means switching it up day to day between 7 different types of exercise.
  • Focus on regular movement. Exercise doesn’t require long, dedicated sessions; bits of movement scattered throughout the day are still meaningful and effective!

. . .

The COVID-19 pandemic surely makes regular exercise more challenging, but it does not make it impossible. Using the resources and strategies above, we can all do something to stay active at home.

Let’s get moving!

Comments: 2

  • Craig

    April 28, 2020

    Shouldn’t squats be the recommended “movement” whilst heading to the bathroom? 😉 Many great suggestions!

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