Stay in, stay safe… and move!

Ines Camara

Staying physically active can be a challenge while self-quarantining. Gyms in many cities are closed and people are requested to stay home as much as possible. In this situation, you could be tempted to get comfy in your pyjamas and binge-watch something on Netflix. However, now more than ever we can benefit from having an active life. Apart from making our body and immune system stronger, physical exercise can reduce stress and relieve back pain caused by sitting. Sounds like a plan in times like these, doesn’t it?

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The World Health Organization recommends doing at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 of intense activity. This means you should increase your heart rate for at least 10 minutes a day. For additional benefits, you can add some muscle-strengthening exercises. However, if you haven’t exercised before or you are used to doing it in a gym or fitness centre, it could be difficult to start or adapt to the new regulations. Good news is, it’s easier than you think! You don’t need any fancy equipment, although having a mat is a good idea.

I’ve found that sticking to a routine works for me. It also helps me regain a sense of normality and strike a balance between life and work. For example, you could start with 2-3 times per week of strength exercises and 3 times per week of cardio exercises (e.g. running, dancing, rope jumping, or simply walking up and down the stairs a few times). Try to schedule your workout and the duration of it (e.g. after work or during lunch).

If you are still thinking that you don’t know how to start, continue reading. I’ve talked to my colleagues to find out how they stay active and collected a few tips for you. I hope to provide you with some inspiration.

Starting your day the right way

  • Try doing some yoga after you wake up. "It helps me listen to my body and sharpen my focus for the day." — says Annegret. There are so many varieties and styles of yoga you could try. If you are the active type, ashtanga can boost your heart rate and make you feel energized. But if you prefer a quieter practice, restorative or yoga Nidra will help you relax and sleep better at night. Downdog is a great app for beginners and regulars alike and it features different yoga styles. It’s free till May 1st so don’t miss the opportunity!

  • If you are allowed to go out, “walk to work” in the morning. Vera goes for a short walk around her neighbourhood, always maintaining a safe distance from others. The earlier you go, the fewer people you’ll find in the street. Running in the morning is also a great idea. Virginia goes for a run every other morning before she starts her working day. “I feel like I’ve accomplished so much by the time I start working”.

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During lunchtime or after work

  • Use some of the apps to workout without equipment. Ian recommends Sworkit or Kettlebell. There are lots of exercises you could do with just your bodyweight (e.g. squats, lunges, push-ups, crunches…). You can also google “workout without equipment” and follow one of the Youtube videos by trainers like Pamela Reif, Natscha Oceane, Mad fit or Chris Heria. “Natascha and Mad fit have some great no-noise workout videos; your neighbours will probably appreciate that!” — says Annemijn.

  • Or follow a lesson online. Many gyms and studios are adapting their offer to the coronavirus outbreak. Jesper loves the videos by High Studios and Clubsportive, both well-known gyms in Amsterdam. Some trainers offer live lessons on Instagram, Facebook or Zoom for free or a donation. By donating, you’d be supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs during the crisis.

  • Start a challenge and keep track of your progress. Lennart is doing a 30-day challenge and exercises every morning, while Koen goes for a run and tries to beat his record. You can also compete with your friends for extra motivation. I prefer exercising in a group, so I “meet” my friends on Zoom every night for the Thor challenge. But probably the prize for the most original challenge goes to my colleague Herve. He is trying to learn dancing gabber, a techno style that was very popular in the Netherlands in the 90s.

  • Order some dumbbells or resistance bands online like I-Chun, and boost your workout routine. If you don’t want to invest any money, grab some heavy water or detergent bottles. A 2-litre bottle with a handle will do the trick. You can tape a couple of them together to increase the weight.

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Keep on moving, every little movement counts

  • Set up reminders like Martijn to move away from your desk from time to time. Our body is not designed to sit on a chair but to stand, walk, run, bend, squat and crawl. Have a break at least every hour. Look away from your screen (yes, also your phone screen) and do some stretching. Downdog has a “chair yoga” option; try it for a few minutes before your next meeting! Or take your breaks to the next level, as Romain does with his 7-minute workout.
  • During meetings,turn off your camera and walk around your apartment. Joren jumps on his home trainer when the meeting doesn’t require much engagement, and Syb does some pull-ups with his new bar if he just needs to listen!

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Weekend activities to do on your own

  • Cycle away from the city. If you are lucky to live close to nature, go for a walk in the woods or at the beach and enjoy the extra benefit of getting some fresh air. Like Youngsil, take the chance to do some learning while listening to a podcast or audiobook.

Take care of your mental health too

  • Many of our colleagues practice meditation with apps like Calm or Headspace. The latter offers specific techniques to deal with anxiety caused by the current situation.

  • Sleeping well can also protect you from getting sick. Poor quality sleep weakens our immune system making us more vulnerable to get infected with a virus. So, instead of spending all that free time you have now on social media or in front of the TV, go to bed earlier and get your 8 hours of sleep.

Staying home may lead to increased sedentary behaviours. We sit for long periods at our desk and during our leisure time, we are often sitting too while using the computer or other devices. However, doing physical exercise is a good strategy for staying healthy. Exercising strengthens our bodies and immune systems and helps reduce stress and anxiety.

Don’t sit all day; any activity is better than none! There are many different activities you can do both indoors and outdoors that don’t require any equipment. If you don’t know how to start, download a fitness app or watch a video or online lesson by a professional trainer. Of course, always make sure you follow current health guidelines: maintain a social distance and stay home if you have any symptoms.