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If you are wondering what life after the national lockdown will look like, you are not alone. When it comes to working out, there is a good chance that many of us will not be able to resume some of our usual activities like going to the gym, aerobics class or yoga studio for several months. (Yes, even after the lockdown is lifted.)

This is because working out in these places is often a group activity. And even when it is not, people have to exercise in close proximity to each other and share equipment and machines. This might make it difficult to follow basic COVID-19 precautions like social distancing. (Read more: COVID-19 prevention for young and healthy people)

The Central government imposed a nationwide lockdown from March 25th to May 17th, in a bid to control the new coronavirus infection. Once the lockdown is lifted, we will have to think carefully about how and when to resume some of the physical activities we love: going dancing, swimmingcycling or even for a morning walk may not be so easy in a world going through a pandemic. (Read more: COVID-19 India timeline)

That said, exercise is extremely important to maintain physical and mental health. Especially now, when our anxiety levels are heightened because of the pandemic, the lockdown and the increased demands of work from home. (Read more: Dr Samir Parikh's tips on how to protect your mental health during COVID-19)

Exercise can help us get adequate sleep during the pandemic, too. (Read more: How to deal with the anxiety of living through a pandemic).

So, how can we strike the perfect balance between getting a great workout and staying home to stay safe, for as long as possible?

One way to do this is by getting a home workout while watching videos and fitness applications on a smartphone. Some of these videos and apps involve exercises with free weights, kettlebells, yoga mats, cycling machines, treadmills or other fitness equipment lying around at home. These can be great for building strength, stamina and flexibility. What's more, you don't have to skip these exercises or pick a different video if you don't have a home gym. You can just do the workout by using your home and the objects in it a little creatively!

Read on for some tried-and-tested tips to get a great workout at home, with ordinary things that most of us already have in the house.

Read more: Yoga for stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic

  1. Benefits of a home workout
  2. Household items that can be used for workouts
  3. Takeaways

While going to a gym or a fitness centre gives you access to a whole host of specific exercise equipment, crowded gyms also pose their own drawbacks, especially in the time of a global pandemic. Getting a home workout requires you to make some space in a room, balcony or the terrace, and you can begin! 

Besides the quick turnaround time, you can also tailor your home-based workouts to suit your own style and not be limited to only one style of exercise, like weight training exercises, aerobic exercises, yoga or pilates.

One of the biggest challenges of working out in a gym can often be turning up to the gym in the first place, which becomes difficult with long work hours and work calls. Instead, taking out 30-45 minutes of your day to put in an effective home workout can be easier yet equally invigorating.

Read more: Circuit training: benefits, tips, precautions

If anyone has seen older martial arts movies starring Jackie Chan, one can see how any piece of furniture - in fact, literally anything in the frame - could be weaponized by the kung fu expert. Several items that are gathering dust at home can also be used to get in a workout that is equally effective. Here are some examples:

  1. The doorway
  2. Chair
  3. Water bottles and buckets
  4. A backpack
  5. Books
  6. A towel
  7. A wall
  8. Stairs
  9. Broomstick
  10. Suitcases
  11. Laundry basket

The doorway

Yes, the space between a door (the threshold) is an excellent place to begin a workout. The muscles in your shoulders, chest as well as the upper back remain constricted for as long as you stay hunched over a computer, tablet or phone screen.

Warming up before pursuing any physical activity is always recommended, and what better way to do it than opening up your upper body muscles using the doorway? 

  • Stand straight between the empty space of a door.
  • Bend your elbows at about 90 degrees, to raise your hands in the air. Place your hands on the door frame (make sure that the door-stopper is securely in place, and take care to avoid the hinges).
  • Push your chest out, and let your shoulder blades come towards each other. Hold for a few second.
  • Now hold the door frame from the outside. Get a firm grip.
  • Round your back and pull your chest in as much as possible, to get a reverse stretch.
  • Do a few repetitions on each side to keep the blood flowing in your upper body.

Chair

A humble wooden chair can be a versatile piece of equipment for exercise, and it can be used in much the same way as one uses flat benches in the gym. Tricep dips can be performed easily on the chair, while the step-up is also a simple exercise to do on a chair. 

A simple bodyweight exercise, the step-up requires you to:

  • Stand straight in front of a chair.
  • Place one leg on the chair and climb up.
  • Now come down carefully and repeat 8-12 times.

The step-up is a great exercise for the lower half of the body, as it trains the muscles in the buttocks and thighs, and strengthens the knee joints as well.

The chair can be used to perform incline as well as decline variations of the push-ups too.

Water bottles and buckets

Simple household items such as plastic water bottles, when filled with water, can add the right amount of resistance for an effective workout. Water bottles can be used to perform any exercise one can perform with a pair of dumbbells. One just needs to ensure that both the bottles are filled with the same amount of water and are of the same type, so the weight remains evenly distributed. Exercises like dumbbell curls, straight arm raises, tricep kickbacks, lateral raises and several others can be performed to tone the arm muscles.

Larger buckets of water, or even the mineral water canisters, can be used as heavier weights during a workout. A bucket of water, filled to the weight of your liking, can be used effectively to perform different variations of deadlifts, or even the farmer’s carry exercise.

Here's how to do the farmer's carry:

  • Fill two similar-sized buckets with the same amount of water. Take care not to fill to the brim, to avoid spillage.
  • Walk from one end of the house or terrace to another.
  • Do this as many times as you can comfortably.
  • Add more repetitions as you get stronger day by day.

A backpack

The backpack you use while going to the office or college can be made into a terrific piece of workout equipment when at home. Fill the bag up with books to make it as heavy as you would like and use it for resistance exercises such as weighted push-ups and pull-ups or even weighted squats.

Books

No one liked carrying the heavy, hard-bound books in their backpacks while going to school, but now is a chance for those books to redeem themselves in other ways. You can use some of the heavier and larger books in your collection for effective exercises such as pullovers, by lying down on your bed.

These heavy books can also be stacked on top of each other to perform sumo squats, or to use them as weights while performing ab crunches and sit-ups as well. Exercises like Russian twists can also be performed with a heavy book:

  • Lie down on the floor, with a big book held firmly in both hands. Keep the book in front of your chest at all times during this exercise.
  • Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
  • As you do a sit-up, twist to your right.
  • Come back to the centre and down.
  • Sit-up and twist to the left.
  • Repeat 8-12 times.

Sitting down and twisting from side to side while holding the book with both hands is also an effective way to get the exercise done.

A towel

A sturdy towel can also double up as an excellent device to stretch the arms in different directions. It can also be used to kept under the feet while in a plank position.

A wall

The wall-sit is one of the most effective exercises for the lower body that one can perform without using any additional equipment. Much like the plank, a wall-sit is excellent for developing core stability and strength, as well as toning up the muscles in the lower half of the body, including the thighs and glutes.

  • Rest your back against the wall.
  • Keep the feet slightly ahead.
  • Bend your knees slowly to lower yourself down to a “sitting position”. Your knees should come above your toes.
  • Keep the back and head anchored to the wall and hold the position for as long as possible.

Stairs

If you haven’t found any opportunity to get some quality cardio in, you can use the staircase of your apartment or house as the perfect prop. Begin with walking up a few flights of stairs and climbing down, and as you grow used to the movement, add more intensity by either speeding up or adding more rounds to your workout.

Broomstick

A simple broomstick or wiper can be used for balancing exercises like standing straight and bending side to side or forwards, or twisting to work the muscles in the sides of your body.

Suitcases

The lockdown may have put paid to your dreams of travelling the world, but the suitcases kept away can also be used for a variety of exercises. The farmer’s carry is also known as a suitcase carry, and suitcases can be filled up with the right amount of weight for this particular exercise.

Laundry basket

The humble laundry basket which is used to carry clothes to the washing machine can also be put to great use. Fill up the laundry basket with as many clothes as possible to make it heavier, and climb up a flight or two of stairs which can make for a tiring HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session.

Household items can always be used to make your home workouts interesting and engaging, adding a little bit of challenge to your routine of bodyweight workouts, or to simply make them more fun. Always remember to warm-up before performing any kind of exercise, and cool down with some stretches. 

However, you must keep an eye on your technique and posture while performing these exercises. You can always enlist a family member to check on your form while performing them, or do them in front of a mirror if possible. Also, homes can be cramped for space, which means you must be extra careful while performing these exercises to avoid injuries or breaking precious souvenirs.

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