When it comes to exercise, if you’re finding yourself slacking after months of staying indoors—first because of the lockdown and then because it's still good practice during the pandemic—you’re not alone.

Unless you’ve lived as a hermit for the better part of your life, the stay-at-home life hasn’t been easy for many. For some of us, the lockdown has actually stretched beyond the national version as various state governments decided to shut down office spaces and public gatherings. Avenues to socialize with relatives, friends or colleagues have become non-existent, and even heading to a bar, restaurant, malls or movie theatre is not possible.

Read more: COVID-19 India timeline

Keeping yourself physically and mentally engaged has been a tough challenge. While for some dealing with the mental aspect has been tougher, those who swear by a regular fitness routine, going for a run or walk in the park or the street, going to a gym or fitness class have also been left feeling out of sorts as a result.

Read more: Dr Samir Parikh's tips on how to protect your mental health during COVID-19

With the pandemic stretching on, it has become imperative to stick to a routine that can motivate you to spend these days productively. Sticking to a routine becomes all the more necessary, especially when you have to juggle long work hours sitting in your living room with doing household chores.

  1. Exercise during lockdown and beyond
  2. How to motivate yourself to workout
  3. How to make an exercise planner for yourself
  4. Takeaways

With strict measures of physical distancing and maintaining personal hygiene in place, it is unlikely that public gyms and workout studios will re-open soon. Physical activity, however, can continue thanks to a spate of fitness applications that can be downloaded on a smartphone, encouraging you to follow a workout routine that suits you best.

While some may dispute their effectiveness as compared to working out in a gym or playing a team sport, they can be equally effective, if not equally satisfying. Home workouts have long been proposed as a great alternative to joining expensive fitness programmes and gyms, and can give you a workout you would be looking forward to.

Various bodyweight exercises can be done even in the absence of the equipment one finds in the gym, but as explained in another article, even household chores involve quite a bit of work and can be beneficial to keep yourself moving and active in these times. One can also replace specific exercise equipment with things at home; for example, you could use water bottles, suitcases, backpacks or even a humble chair as additional weights while doing resistance exercises.

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While there are various forms of exercise that can be performed even in the comfort of your own home, it is the act of motivating yourself to remain active that is sometimes the greater challenge. The Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India has recommended five activities to keep yourself active at home right now. They are:

  • Practice yoga at home
  • Meditate
  • Dance/listen to music
  • Read textbooks and take an online course
  • Watch a movie

While all these five recommendations seem easy enough, it takes a certain amount of discipline and motivation to execute them on a daily basis, especially in the case of physical activities such as yoga, meditation or dancing. They are, however, extremely effective in keeping you active throughout the day. Joining an online yoga class, meditating with simple breathing techniques or even dancing to the tune of your favourite songs can be extremely relaxing.

Getting a set of recommendations, types of exercises or movements to perform during the day is one thing, but finding the time and space to do them regularly is quite another. And setting a routine to balance out your schedule while being at home is a different challenge altogether, although it is not an impossible task. Here are some tips on how to set a schedule, and stick to it:

  • Set a routine: Staying at home throughout the day can take a toll on both the body and mind. It is a great idea to set a schedule that you think you can keep, simulating how a normal weekday or weekend would go for you, which have become increasingly difficult to distinguish between nowadays. Getting up in the morning, exercising, breakfast, going to work, unwinding upon return, dinner and so on are some of the common practices. Stick to a routine that works best for you.
  • Set a goal: Much like you would if you joined the neighbourhood gym or a fitness class, it is great to have a target in mind before setting out to achieve it. Whether it is weight loss, weight training, becoming stronger or more active, you can tailor your fitness routine accordingly. You can also track your progress through fitness apps, the weighing scale or a measuring tape regularly.
  • Pick a time: Whether you’re an early riser or a late-night person, it always helps to have a consistent fitness routine. If you like working out in the morning, ensure that you stick to performing your exercises early in the day before sitting down for work, or if you prefer evenings, finish work, set your laptop aside and sweat it out with your fitness programme.
    A gym class doesn't have to be an hour. Remember to make the most of the time you take out for exercise. You can have an equally challenging workout even in 15-20 minutes.
  • Make space for exercise: Whether it is the living room, bedroom or the balcony—or the terrace, if you have one—keep the space cleared out the previous night to begin your exercises in the morning. It will ensure that you do not feel burdened to clear out things and make space each time you begin a workout, and can get straight down to business.
  • Virtual teamwork: You may not be able to meet with your friends or colleagues who workout with you in the gym or play a sport with you, but you can always invite them to a virtual workout challenge. Use the same fitness app on the smartphone and compare your workouts, or the ease or difficulty of them and motivate each other.
  • Make it enjoyable: At the end of the day, the workout or physical activity you have planned for yourself during the lockdown isn’t something that should become a chore or a task that has to be done. Physical activities are meant to spark joy and relieve the stress that this pandemic—or other factors like long work hours or not being able to follow up on a diet—may cause. Physical exercise must reflect positively towards your mental well-being, otherwise it is not going to have the same effects as you might have wanted.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has managed to put many people under varying degrees of stress and anxiety over the uncertainty of it all. Staying at home throughout the day doing household chores as well as working from home can become challenging for different reasons.

It is, therefore, important to chalk out a routine that suits you best in order to get your daily dose of physical activity, that helps in producing endorphins that can help you feel better during the rest of the day, feel more active as well as observe positive changes in your body by the time the pandemic finally comes to an end.

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