This unexpected time at home has had health benefits that are just as surprising as the stay-at-home lifestyle itself. “I never had so many home-cooked meals,” said one friend in West Midtown. “And I, for sure, never slept eight hours so many nights in a row.” Even for those with no real commute, such as the fortunate dwellers in the lofts of Midtown Atlanta, the ability to work from home has added hours to our days. Some of those are early-morning hours, or evenings snug in bed, and others are in the kitchen, preparing dinners when we might have gone to a restaurant instead, just a few weeks ago.
If sleep and nutrition are falling more in step with healthy guidelines, then that leaves exercise. For most of us, gyms are not an option nowadays, yoga and other exercise classes are on pause, and, in many cases, even our usual running and biking courses might not offer enough social distancing to be completely confident of maintaining health guidelines. Fortunately, there are options for exercise at home that can be just as effective if we practice them faithfully.
How to Fit “Cardio” Indoors
The answer to cardiovascular exercise indoors is pretty easy for those with a treadmill or exercise bike. But even without at-home equipment, there are effective options. Let’s borrow a couple from our cousins who go the crossfit route. The environment of most crossfit studios makes them feel a lot like lofts, and even in that environment they manage to burn calories and expand cardiovascular exchange without a track or outdoor course.
Burpees are a crossfit favorite. They begin and end in a standing position proceeding through a four-count.
- Bend the knees and place the palms on the floor shoulder-width apart.
- Hop back with the toes into a pushup position.
- Then comes a single pushup, followed by…
- Hopping the feet forward and resuming the standing position from which you began followed continuously by a hop straight up while stretching the arms overhead.
A burpee takes no more space than a Yoga mat, and yet ask anyone who’s done 30 in a row – and quickly – whether they produce a cardio effect or not. Many say that an exercise sequence built around burpees can be as efficient as running, or even more so.
Elite athletes, and even neighbors who make a study of it, say that the strength of abdominal muscles, hips, and lower back are the keys to all forms of athletic ability. The exercises you can do at home to build and maintain core strength are many. Squats are not just for the hips and legs. When done properly, you can feel the demand squats place on abdominals to stabilize as you descend and ascend. The “plank” is a basic core exercise, and some consider it definitive. Just assume a pushup position and hold it for counts of 10, 20, 30, or 40. Use elbows rather than hands for your front support and you make the structure more directly horizontal, challenging the abdominal muscles even more.
Hip-raises are simple. Lie on your back, flex your knees to place your feet flat, and then extend your knees to thrust your hips up. Yes, the obvious work is in the gluteal muscles, but notice too how the abdominals and lower back muscles come into play. Holding that hip raise in the “up” position gives you a glute bridge, another way to focus the effort effectively into the core.
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