Photo caption: Illustrations by Ada Love.
It’s been hard to get up, get moving and stay motivated.
The pandemic has increased our levels of stress, which can also take a toll on our physical health. With gyms closed, slow to reopen or not always a safe option, we’ve been thrown off our exercise routines. For many working from home, there’s more sitting and less running across the street for coffee with your co-worker.
Still, there are ways to get creative and add exercise back into your routine. Paula Houston, EdD, UW Medicine’s chief equity officer, and her lifting group the “Little Old Lady Athletes,” inspired us this year when they created their own outdoor gym in a driveway using tents, tarps and even a propane heater for the winter.
Whether you are doing your workouts outside or inside or are just trying to reestablish a routine, these four tips from exercise experts will help you make the most out of your workout.
Get 150 active minutes per week
The U.S. National Physical Activity Guidelines recommends adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
Cindy Lin, MD, clinical associate professor of Rehabilitation Medicine and associate director of clinical innovation for The Sports Institute, says you can break those minutes up any way you want.
That means 30 minutes of brisk walking for five days per week would meet the requirements, but so would a couple of sweaty spin classes or high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions.
If that sounds like way more minutes of activity than you are currently getting per week, no sweat, you can work your way up. You could even try fitness snacking, shorter bouts of exercise multiple times per day. Like going on three 10-minute walks a day.
Pick your own adventure, but don’t forget to take a rest day to allow your body to recover and recharge.
Warmups and cooldowns are essential
Warming up before exercise increases blood flow to your muscles and raises your body temperature, which can improve your performance and decrease your risk of injury.
Alison Putnam, DO, a sports medicine physician, recommends low-intensity exercise for five to 10 minutes before your workout. Try activities like walking, jogging or jumping jacks.
Once you complete your workout, incorporating a cooldown can speed up recovery and reduce soreness.
Putnam recommends easy exercise for five to 10 minutes at the end of your workout. Try activities like walking or yoga and finish with some static stretches, which are best done when your body is warm.
Balance your strength and cardio
Whether you are a cardio fanatic, a die-hard weightlifter or just trying to figure out a routine, incorporating both types of exercise can help prevent injury and improve your overall fitness.
Here’s why: Cardio exercises, like dancing or jogging, increase oxygen consumption and improve cardiovascular adaptations. Strength exercises, like Pilates or weightlifting, work the muscles and the nerves, which cause them to adapt and get stronger.
Christopher McMullen, MD, a sports medicine physician, says that both types of exercise are beneficial for managing, treating and preventing a range of health conditions. The combination of both will enhance the benefits.
As a general guideline, incorporate four cardio and two strength workouts into your weekly workout routine.
Don’t forget your core
Core-focused exercise isn’t just about getting abs: Building a strong core can help reduce chronic back pain, increase stability and balance, improve posture and even prevent overuse injuries.
To get these benefits, you need to work more than just the rectus abdominis six-pack muscles. Your core is made up of abdominal muscles, glutes, the pelvic floor and areas of the torso — the muscles that help stabilize the spine.
Eric Chen, MD, MS, a sports medicine physician, recommends trying planks, crunches and bird dogs. Start small and gradually build up — maybe even add these exercises into your strength routine.
Building your core strength will make it easier to exercise and do everyday activities.
Find more exercise tips from UW Medicine experts on Right as Rain.