There will be two kinds of people emerging from self-quarantine: those who use it to get fit and those who use it to get fat. This time away from the public eye has turned up the dial on our social fears, motivating us to work out religiously so that we don’t make our reentrance looking like a schlub. But for others, social distancing is our ultimate workout excuse. Why put yourself through the trouble of staying fit when nobody’s going to see you?
If you lean toward the second category, you might want to rethink it. Laziness feels great for a while, but it doesn’t take long to catch up with your physical and mental health. Regular exercise is a crucial part of keeping your immune system strong and your mindset in a stable, positive state. It also contributes to creativity, productivity, and resilience in the face of resistance. (Like finding your toilet paper brand is once again sold out.)
We’re not saying you have to commit to two-a-days for these results. In fact, now is the perfect time to find out just how simple it is to stay (relatively) fit. We’ve pulled together a shortlist of exercises and stretches that can easily be done while staying inside and watching TV. The movements are simple, repetitive, quiet, and take up minimal space in a room, which means you can even do them without impinging on your roommates’ personal space. Best of all, once you’ve gotten used to the movement, you can easily do them while your attention is occupied by whatever show you’re currently working your way through.
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By picking five of these movements and spending just a few commercial breaks on each of them per day, you can maintain your baseline wellness and emerge from quarantine looking and feeling…probably about the same as you did before, if not a little better.
Without a treadmill or a stationary bike, you might be hard up for cardio. As it happens, you can get the same heart-healthy dose of aerobic exercise with a schoolyard classic: the jumping jack. If you want to turn up the challenge, try doing a half squat each time your feet hit the floor. Even more variations can be found here.
It’s true that the silver lining of quarantine life is the opportunity to spend the day on the couch, but all that lounging creates a perma-slouch which shortens your pectoral muscles and can lead to shoulder and back pain. This exercise will crack your chest open (in a good way) while building strength in your back and shoulders. Bonus: You can do it while standing, sitting, or even lying on your stomach.
Full disclosure: this might not be the best one for practicing while watching TV, unless you live alone. If you’ve got roommates, take it to the backyard or the roof. After warming up with some walking lunges across the room, turn up the intensity by starting each stride with a jump to alternate the leading foot. You may feel like you look silly, but this exercise that works a laundry list of muscles and joints—glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, core, hips, and even ankles—along with offering some needed cardio.
This is the Swiss army knife of exercises, working multiple glamor muscles all at once—abs, biceps, shoulders, even a little bit of quads. The key here is to position your shoulders right over your elbows, and let your head hang gently so that your gaze is at the floor.
This exercise gets into every nook and cranny of your abs, improving oblique strength and definition. All it requires is rotating your torso from side to side while holding a sit-up position with your feet off the ground; for a little extra challenge, you can perform it while holding a medicine ball (or, alternatively, a bag of canned goods). If you want to come out of quarantine looking like you’ve spent the last two months in boot camp, this is the one to practice.
This CrossFit staple seems simple, but it’s worth brushing up on your form if you really want to get results. And given that this exercise works almost every major muscle group in the body, as well as improving flexibility in your most sensitive joints, we’d say it’s worth the effort. Pro tip: keep your core crunched throughout the movement.
This one helps correct the pectoral-shortening effect of leaning or slouching forward. It may feel a little uncomfortable at first, so take it slow, relax your throat as you extend the arms outward from the heart, and come up super slowly. You’ll be amazed by how refreshed you feel afterward.
This exercise has one muscle in mind: the piriformis, located deep within the butt. When the piriformis gets too tight, it puts painful pressure on your sciatic nerve. If your level of flexibility doesn’t allow for the full pigeon pose (here’s a secret: I’ve been practicing for years and still can’t do it), position a folded blanket under your butt to stabilize you. You can even do a modified version lying on your back, with your legs in a figure four.
So much more than touching your toes, this exercise is all about lengthening the hamstrings and opening the hips after a long day of doing nothing. The secret is keeping your knees slightly bent, so that you’re really getting the hamstrings and not straining your back. Success is measured not in how close your fingers come to the floor, but rather, in how close your belly gets to the tops of your quads.
Crescent Moon Pose
Another deceptively simple move that delivers amazing results, this one will crack you open from the side, spilling out all kinds of stress you didn’t know you had. The key here is keeping your throat open so that you don’t strain your neck—if you find yourself tucking your chin into your collarbone, gently coax your gaze forward so that you’re looking straight ahead. You can stay with both feet planted on the ground, or you can take it a little further and lift your outside leg until it’s parallel to the ground for half moon pose.
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