It’s February 2020. The pandemic has not been declared.
Parts of China are under lockdown – then thought to be a novel experiment, rather than the ‘new normal’.
To pass the time and stay fit under home quarantine, marathon runner Pan Shancu, from the city of Hangzhou, filmed himself running 50 kilometres around his living room.
When he posted the video of him doing laps around an eight-metre course in his apartment, the amateur marathon runner said he “could not bear sitting down any more”.
While those currently in lockdown in Australia might not be keen to spend four hours running around their living rooms, they can certainly relate to the sentiment.
Staying fit during lockdown is no easy task. Gyms and pools are closed, and motivation wanes.
But remaining sedentary can have negative effects on mental health, said Heart Foundation active living director Professor Trevor Shilton.
“COVID-19 continues to disrupt almost every aspect of Australians’ lives, including our physical activity routines – going to the gym, playing team sports, or even walking with a group of friends,” Professor Shilton said.
“If you’re at home for long periods, there might be a temptation to spend more time on the couch.
“Regular exercise reaps not only many physical benefits, but it’s also been proven to help our state of mind, which is so important in these challenging times.”
So what exercises are good to do in lockdown?
Many people have found unique ways to exercise.
Comedians have been leading yoga classes, artists are doing 30 minutes of dance, and there has been a spike in hula hooping.
But it can be hard to know what works the best.
Brett Gordon, an Associate Professor in Exercise Science & Physiology at La Trobe University, said the best exercise is the one you can do now.
“For those in lockdown, it’s important to get outside and exercise in the outdoors. So using that time to be in the environment and get some vitamin D,” Dr Gordon said.
“But one of the important things to consider is why are you doing the exercise in the first place?”
How much exercise do you need to do?
Although the 30-minutes-per-day rule still applies, Dr Gordon said those in lockdown should try for longer – because things like walking to the train, the coffee shop, or even the printer are not happening as often as they used to.
Working out how much exercise you need to do and how hard you need to push yourself depends on your goal.
If you’re exercising to improve your mental health and cognitive thinking, it doesn’t matter how hard you push yourself, “as long you’re doing something to get the blood flowing around the body”.
“If you’re just trying to improve your quality of life, it’s about getting out there and being active as frequently as you can,” Dr Gordon said.
“And if you want to do it for fitness, you want to be getting your heart rate up to a reasonable level where it is challenging to talk while you’re exercising.”
Don’t forget those muscles
Dr Gordon said it was important to do some muscle resistance training, which can easily be done inside the home.
“Push-ups are a really good exercise. They can modify these as they need it. They don’t need to be on toes, they can be on knees, or against the kitchen bench or table,” he said.
Step-ups using the front step of the house are also really good.
“And squats, or sitting down on the chair and standing up – that makes them easier to do,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how you’re doing them as long as it’s safe and you’re feeling muscles work while you’re doing it.”
Dr Gordon said the most important thing when starting out exercising is just to move your body and increase the intensity gradually.
“If you aren’t typically active, then make sure you approach it in the type of way where you are building up exercise,” he said.
“Don’t go from doing nothing to running for an hour. That’s likely to lead to injury or muscle soreness.”
Five exercises that will keep you fit
Here are five exercises you can easily do to keep you fit, both mentally and physically.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise because it’s cheap and accessible to most people. Go outside, start walking and don’t stop until you’ve done at least 30 minutes. You’ll be grateful.
As Dr Gordon said, exercises that strengthen your muscles are easy to do at home. Lunges, planks and squats are all great examples.
Calming and mindful yoga is great for your body and helps you relax.
Check out Yoga with Adriene – her YouTube channel is hugely popular, and she has a whole library of high-quality, free yoga videos.
Ride a bike or scooter
Cycling has skyrocketed since the pandemic. And it’s no surprise; it helps keep you fit, is easy to do, and is a lot of fun.
If you’ve got a garden, then your normal maintenance also counts as a workout during lockdown.
Squatting and carrying heavy items around is all exercise.