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Exercising During the Coronavirus Outbreak: Indoor Workouts and Outdoor Safety

Whether it's your Thursday morning yoga class, your beloved elliptical machine, or the free weight area, there are many parts of your exercise routine that may be temporarily off-limits. With the coronavirus outbreak came gym closures and social distancing — and new challenges when it comes to exercising.

Still, the benefits of exercise are difficult to ignore, even during a pandemic. It helps you control your weight, keep your heart healthy, strengthen your bones, get better sleep — the list goes on. 

Plus, exercise can help you relax, ease stress, and boost your immunity, all of which are welcome benefits during a virus outbreak.


Exercise may also boost the immune system and even protect you from illnesses such as the cold, flu, or COVID-19. The general recommendation is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week. However, just 5 minutes of exercise can produce anti-anxiety effects.

Though your options may be a little more limited these days, there are still practical and fun ways to get your daily exercise in. Here are 3 effective ways to exercise indoors — and how to exercise outdoors safely.

1. Forget the weights — use your body.

No weights? No problem. Bodyweight exercises aren't just time and space savers — they can also get your heart pumping and muscles working. These tried and true exercises are effective, and they can be adjusted according to how much time you have.

The idea behind bodyweight exercises is that you use your body as resistance, which can make for a challenging workout. These moves build strength, enhance your fitness levels, and improve your flexibility — all without taking up more than a few square feet.

Effective bodyweight exercises include:

  • Pushups
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Crunches
  • Planks
  • Burpees
  • Tricep dips
  • Calf raises

Putting together a bodyweight workout is simple. After you warm up (try running in place or doing jumping jacks), go through a series of moves. You can either aim for a set number or set time for each exercise, then move onto the next exercise.

For an extra challenge, see if you can increase how much you do each day. Don't forget to change up the moves to keep it interesting and activate different muscle groups each day.

To bump up the intensity a bit, you can also use bodyweight workouts to make your own high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, which involves alternating short periods of vigorous exercise (such as burpees or jump squats) with brief periods of active recovery (such as stretching or light jogging in place). This approach makes your heart work harder, which can burn calories and improve your aerobic capacity a little quicker.

2. Use low-impact exercises to improve your physical and mental well-being.

If you're looking for something a little less intense, low-impact exercise may be the way to go. It generally puts less stress on your body, and it comes with many of the same benefits.

Yoga, which is becoming increasingly popular in the US, involves breathing exercises alongside specific postures. Its benefits are extensive, including building strength, improving flexibility, and relieving stress. Also, it has been shown to enhance respiratory function, which is a significant benefit in light of COVID-19.

Pilates, which is an exercise that focuses on building abdominal and trunk muscles through tiny, specific movements, can also give you a great workout. It builds strength, improves posture, and enhances athletic performance overall. Plus, similar to yoga, it can promote mindfulness and reduce stress.

Whether you go the yoga or the pilates route, you can find plenty of workouts online, including written out plans or videos. There are also many apps that guide you through either practice. Some gyms and social media accounts are even offering live-streamed classes, which can keep you engaged in a fitness-minded community.

3. Use household items as equipment — or invest in some of your own.

One of the benefits of a gym is its wide variety of equipment options from free weights to bench presses to weight machines. At home, you may not have access to fancy exercise equipment, but you have plenty of household items that can be used in its place for the time being.

Some ways to workout using household equipment include:

  • Using cans of food or a jug of laundry detergent for weights
  • Running the stairs for your very own Stairmaster
  • Doing wall-sits or pushups against a flat wall
  • Using a towel as a resistance band
  • Finding a sturdy place to do pull-ups
  • Using a coffee table for tricep dips

If you're able to make a small investment in workout equipment, there are many simple and useful options, such as a set of free weights, a kettlebell, or a stationary bike. Plus, you'll get to use them on rainy or cold days after gyms reopen.

Bonus hint: During the pandemic, some gyms that have been closed down are renting out certain equipment to use at home. Contact your local gym to see if you can borrow equipment until they reopen.

How to Exercise Outdoors While Social Distancing

While working out at home is the safest option right now, there are ways to exercise outdoors while adhering to social distancing guidelines. For instance, if you go for a jog, you'll need to remain at least 6 feet away from others. This may require you to switch to the other side of the street or avoid a path that's particularly crowded. It's also more important now than ever to remain aware of your surroundings.

If you're unable to stay at least 6 feet away from others, but you still want to exercise outdoors, wear a mask. Though this may be a little uncomfortable at first, it's essential to your safety as well as the safety of those around you.

Keep in mind — some outdoor spaces may be completely off-limits, such as playground equipment and tennis courts. Make sure you check your local guidelines and adhere to any posted signs.

As with any time you need to leave your house, avoid touching surfaces as much as possible, and make sure to wash your hands right away when you get home. And if you're not feeling well, don't exercise outdoors at all. You'll be putting the safety of others at risk if you do.

The coronavirus has certainly upended a lot of people's lives, but that doesn't mean it has to keep you from staying active. Exercise is always a good idea, and during a pandemic, it may be even more important to keep your body and mind both happy and healthy.

Do you have questions about other ways to stay healthy? Call 610-738-2300 to find a health care provider at Chester County Hospital.

For information about social distancing and protecting yourself from the coronavirus, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

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About this Blog

Chester County Hospital's Health e-Living Blog offers a regular serving of useful health and lifestyle information for the residents of Chester County, PA and the surrounding region.

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