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Ideas to help you stay fit and healthy while social distancing and self-isolating

Social distancing or self-isolating continues with no end in sight. Here are some tips for staying fit and healthy -- both in mind and body -- while we wait for the coronavirus pandemic to come to an end. (Updated April 2020 with reader's suggestions)

It's the weekend. With all the craziness and uncertainty in the world, I hope you get some time over the next couple of days to downregulate and calm yourself. Here are some ideas for you to do that, along with some YouTube channels for inspiration and education.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has swooped on us, and over the course of a few short weeks upended lives and completely changed how we work, socialize, and interact. Many, either through choice or through contact with the coronavirus, are spending a lot more time at home.

Being home is great, but as someone who has spent far too much time sitting over the years (and then had to deal with the repercussions of that), I know how important it is to keep an eye on long-term health and fitness. And it's not just a physical thing. Stress is at an all-time high, and exercise and movement are both great ways calm, the mind and relieve stress.

So, what can you do to help stay fit and healthy social distancing and self-isolating? Well, here's what I've been doing. Some of this might work for you, some might not.

Must read: Coronavirus social distancing got you down? Tips and tricks to help you get through it

Before I go on, a disclaimer. I don't think this the time to be starting some new intense exercise regime. The healthcare system could become quite saturated over the coming weeks, and you don't want to be doing anything that could land you in hospital. If in any doubt, consult a healthcare professional. Be responsible for you.

#1: Spend a few minutes stretching in the morning

Whether you've only got five minutes, or twenty, spending a few minutes first thing in the morning stretching out and working the joints and muscles can be very beneficial for both the mind and body.

Here are a couple of good "follow along" videos by Tom Merrick (aka The Bodyweight Warrior) that are a great start to the day. The first two routines are only five minutes long, the second twenty:

#2: Get some outdoor time every day

Spend some time -- even if only a few minutes -- outdoors every day. If you have a garden or a park, that's great. Don't have either, or maybe the weather is terrible, at least open a window for a few minutes. Breathe so fresh air. Feel nature on your face and skin -- whether that be sun, wind, or rain.

There's something calming about connecting to nature, doubly so during times of uncertainty and stress. I highly recommend finding a patch of grass or a secluded tree, turning off the smartphone, and getting to know it very well.

If you like gardening, that's the perfect excuse to get outdoors and get moving! Like tinkering with small engines like lawn mowers and snowblowers (the garage is outdoors, right?)? Here's are some YouTube channel to get you inspired!

#3: Walking

One of the greatest exercises you can do because it's easy to scale it up or down depending on your fitness, and doesn't cost anything.

I find this to be the best way to relieve stress. Pop some earbuds in, put on some music or an audiobook, and put one foot in from of the other. It works great even during times of self-isolation because most of us will know places we can go that are relatively quiet (if not all day, maybe at a particular time of day).

Can't go outside? Go for a walk indoors. Sounds crazy, but you can get a good walk, especially if you have stairs!

#4: Get up out of your chair (or off the couch) each and every hour

Move more. Most smartwatches and fitness trackers have a feature that reminds you to move every hour if you've been still. Use it! Don't sit for many hours on end hunched over a keyboard. It's not a viable option in the long term.

Get up, stretch, have a beverage, go look out of a window for a few minutes.

#5: Spend time with pets

Dogs need walking, cats need playing with, other pets could do with some attention. Spend some time with your pets. They'll enjoy it (well, most will), and you will feel much better. 

#6: Online yoga

Yoga classes are out, but there's a lot of great yoga online, either in the form of live classes or pre-recorded stuff. I especially recommend practices that put a lot of focus on the breath, because that's a brilliant stress-buster.

Here are a couple of practices that are perfect for beginners by UK yoga instructor Finley Wilson (great guy who studied the same style of yoga I practice and teach myself):

#7: Convict Conditioning

Really need a good workout but the gym is closed? No problem!

Convict Conditioning is a book that was written by Paul Wade that consists of a series of bodyweight exercises that, as the title suggests, can be done while incarcerated. Sounds ideal when self-isolating, right? You need only minimal equipment and a small space, and while the exercises sound simple, let me tell you that they are not.

As you can imagine, the concept has nowadays grown beyond the book and there are countless YouTube channels dedicated to bodyweight training. Here are two I recommend taking a look at if you are interested:

Reader's suggestions

  • Clean your house or apartment like it's never been cleaned before
  • Use stairs instead of the elevator
  • Do something -- press ups, pullups, squats -- each time you enter a room (kitchen, bedroom, office)
  • Get an exercise bike
  • Get a standing desk
  • Get a skipping rope (and realize just how much harder it is now compared to when you were a kid)

Any other tips for staying for and healthy while social distancing and self-isolating? Let me know!

See also: