Exercising during the Lockdown

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are currently living under some degree of lockdown. While some of us are still able to go out for a walk or a run, others are almost 100% confined to home.

We thought, while this was going on, it might be helpful to offer our opinion on how we’d go about designing an exercise program to mitigate the circumstances. We’re going to take it from the perspective of people under the most severe restrictions and others can then adjust appropriately.

You’ll notice that the title of this post is ‘exercising during the lockdown’ rather than ‘working out during the lockdown’ and that’s intentional. We’re primarily trying to address general health in this post. It’s very important in our opinion that you’re careful not to push yourself so hard with intense exercise at this time that you run yourself down. Studies have shown that moderate exercise is fine, even helpful in strengthening the immune response, but if you go too hard, you may be more susceptible to getting ill.

Most of us underestimate the importance of the ‘incidental exercise’ we get. This is in terms of how much of it we do and its role in our general health. A fancier name for incidental exercise is NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) but they both mean the same thing, activity that isn’t structured, planned exercise.

Depending on how much you fidget, walk or generally move around you can actually burn between 100 and 200 calories an hour with NEAT. With many of us somewhat confined, we could end up losing out on a substantial portion of our NEAT.

There have been studies showing that even getting up and moving around for a few minutes every hour can have a positive effect on long-term health. So that’s where we’d suggest starting – before even considering working out, let’s first try to replicate this incidental activity as much as possible.

The first goal should be a minimum of 5 minutes of low intensity activity every hour. This is particularly important if you’re otherwise likely to spend much of your day sitting down. These 5 minute tasks aren’t meant to be formal exercise, they can be as mundane  as getting up to load a washing machine or empty a dishwasher, walking up and down the stairs a couple of times or even just going to get a glass of water. Anything that makes you stand up and move around a bit; let’s try not to sit in place for more than, say, 50 to 55 minutes at a time.

Once that baseline is established, we suggest adding two short 15 minute blocks of activity, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Again, we’re reluctant to call this activity ‘working out’, we’re still aiming towards the goal of maintaining a level of normal, healthy activity. So, these blocks shouldn’t be too intense just gentle, continuous movement e.g. slow stair walking, walking in place, cycling on a stationary bike or very light calisthenics. If you like yoga, Zumba, pilates or anything like that then they’ll also work. Don’t bust a gut here, the movement should be enjoyable and enlivening.

When you have this routine down which may take a couple of days, we’d then consider looking at exercising during the lockdown. For as long as you’re under some kind of lockdown conditions we’d recommend a workout schedule that has you working out a small amount every day if possible, rather than intense workouts every second day e.g. 15 minutes 6 days a week is preferable to 30 minutes 3 days a week. Saying that, if you really prefer longer workouts then it’s not the end of the world to do every other day.

Some ready made routines are here for bodyweight , here for minimal equipment, and here if you have modest equipment. But you could take almost any of our workouts , split them and tinker  with the frequency.

Remember don’t go all out in terms of intensity, our normal guidelines stress not going above an ‘8’ in terms of effort. We’d recommend amending that to a ‘7’ during this time, just to make sure we have as much reserves as possible for our immune system.

An added benefit of getting more movement into your day is the positive effect it’ll have on your mental health. We were made to move and, as we’ve outlined above, that doesn’t have to be an hour long run or 100 burpees – even gentle intermittent movement yields huge benefits which is what this type of exercising during the lockdown is geared towards.

Finally, while you shouldn’t rely on this page for medical advice and  should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional in relation to health issues, it may be helpful to consider supplementing with vitamin d as some recent research has shown it may help resistance to Covid-19.

Best of luck to everyone, hopefully we all come out the other side fairly soon and can get back to our normal lives with a new sense of appreciation.