Updated: May 12
During stressful times, being gentle and kind to yourself and taking care of your body and mind is imperative. Exercising and staying active can be a big part of this. But finding a fun workout routine that you can do by yourself anytime and anywhere, without props or machines, and without spending ton of money, can be tricky. In addition, people with different levels of fitness and different ways of processing stress, have different exercise needs. Hence, LivingPUR put together this summary of top 5 scientifically proven, at home workouts for body and mind, that don't require a lot of space, props, or money.
These days social distancing and staying at home are a must. And we are all dealing with it differently. Some of us (I’m looking at you, my fellow introverts) are making the best of this downtime and are using it to read, write, binge on a favorite show, do a massive spring—clean (count me in), spend quality time with our partner and our kiddos, or to simply catch up on work. At the same time, many others are feeling “trapped” physically in their apartments and homes, or mentally, struggling with feelings of isolation, loneliness, and in more serious cases, anxiety and depression. Not surprisingly, even before COVID—19 pandemic started, social isolation has been proven to cause adverse health effects. Some of these include poor sleep quality and depression, as well as impaired executive function, cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function, and weakened immunity.
No matter which one of these two “tribes” you belong to, during stressful times it is extra important to remember to be gentle and kind to yourself, and to take care of your body and your mind.
Staying active is a big part of this. Most of us are already too familiar with endless benefits of exercise, both physical and psychological. Regular physical activity has been proven to decrease mortality, tumor formation, boost immune system, reduce inflammation, and reduce incidence of influenza and pneumonia (last one being quite convenient benefit during these times). And since physical and mental health are essentially one and the same, staying active is also a great stress reducer, with some forms of exercise, like yoga and meditation, proven to help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
All these benefits apply, of course, no matter what your level of fitness is, but different people do have different stay—at—home exercise goals and ways of processing stress:
Workout enthusiast — Normally you are a staple at a local gym and by now you are probably really missing your machines, your classes, or even just the buzz of of overcrowded places with people sweating together.
Couch potato — If you normally count brisk walks as high intensity aerobic activity, your body now especially needs movement, before it turns into one giant knot of pain. This is even more true for all of us whose majority of daily walking is now restricted to: bed — kitchen — bathroom kind of route.
Highly sensitive people and worry—worms — If you are prone to anxiety, depression, or just feeling lonely, taking care of your body and your mind is proven to reduce negative effects of social isolation. And keeping some sort of routine, such as regular workout schedule, can be very beneficial.
So to help you take care of yourself and stay fit, sane, and pain—free during these times, we researched and selected top 5 favorite LivingPUR home workouts that address the various needs of all three types of people described above. The best part is, these workouts do not require a lot of space, time, or money, and are all scientifically proven to be very effective and beneficial.
Top 5 Favorite LivingPUR Home Workouts
7 Minute Workout
Besides keeping you active and fit, this amazing scientifically proven High Intensity Circuit Training (aka HIIT) also helps decrease body fat, while improving muscular fitness and insulin sensitivity (reducing blood sugar). It addresses all major muscle groups, for a well rounded workout. As promised, it can be done in a small space with no props required. The only thing you will need is your own body weight, a chair, a wall, and 7 minutes of your time, so I’m pretty sure we are all out of excuses with this one. I typically do this routine when I have very little time. I try my best to do 3 rounds for a total of 21 minutes (after which I’m down for the count). If that is not possible, I make sure to do at least 2 sets, which still gives me a great workout. Depending on your level of fitness and amount of free time, you can do as many or as few rounds as you like. Either way, you will enjoy the benefits. Below is the list and sequence of the actual exercises, taken from New York Times article about 7 Minute Workout (yes... even Times wrote about it).
You can also download this FREE app 7 Minute Workout: Fitness App that will guide you through the exercises, in a very commanding voice of a boot-camp instructor, and it will time active and rest times for you, both of which I find helpful. And if you are not a fan of this app, here is a good Women’s Health review about pros and cons of top 7—minute workout apps.
One thing to keep in mind is that this workout is intense and maintaining good form is important to avoid injury. Hence, it is not necessarily the best for beginners or for people with certain preexisting conditions. According to WebMD:
"The 7-Minute Workout could get you in the best shape of your life. But it comes at a price: intensity! If you have joint or back problems and are not already active, this is not the workout for you — at least not yet."
This powerhouse aerobic workout burns as much calories as running an 8—minute mile. That's serious, people! All you need is 5—20 minutes of your time, 6 x 10 ft of space, and some jump rope. If you don't have one, Amazon is of course full of affordable options. This workout does put pressure on your knees, ankles, and hips and it is not easy to do for extended periods of time, so it is not recommended for people with relevant preexisting conditions. But if it is appropriate for you and you do it correctly, it is a great, super effective, and quick at home workout that will keep you in shape and get your heart rate going.
Here is a complete WebMD guide on How To Jump Rope properly. Even though it might sound trivial (we all skipped rope when we were little after all), I recommend you read it to ensure proper form and avoid injury.
If you are like me and you focus more on staying flexible, pain—free, and keeping your muscles long and lean, then yoga is your game. According to Harvard Medical School yoga is proven to reduce stress and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. This stress modulating effect of yoga, in turn, can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, and ease respiration. These benefits make yoga a perfect at home workout, appropriate for various levels of fitness ability.
Best Yoga Resources
Down Dog App
My personal favorite yoga workout is Down Dog app, #1 rated yoga app by Wall Street Journal and BuzzFeed. This app offers great options for customizing your session duration, pace, level (from beginner to advanced), and type of yoga (from Vinyasa, Hatha, to relaxing Yoga Nidra). You can also add extra boosts for specific body parts you want to focus on. Customization, app’s interface, and quality of routines offered, for me compare to some of the best yoga classes I’ve taken in person. Extra bonus is great music, with options from piano, ambient, to more current and not too—yogi—like tunes. And again, all you need is minimal space and 4—90 min of your time, depending on how enthusiastic you are about it.
Down Dog app was free for early adopters and it now costs $50 for yearly subscription for new members (which I would still pay gladly, because this app is my go—to that I use at least three times a week). But if you don’t want to commit to spending dough without testing the app first, great news is that Down Dog is currently offered for free until May 1st for everybody, and until July 1st for all students and teachers (K—12 and college) and all healthcare professionals. I love this! Companies who do good for their customers or the planet always have a special place in my heart (and in LivingPUR Blog). Down Dog also offers 100% free Barre app, which is a fun and great exercise, with similar physical benefits of yoga, for those who enjoy barre classes.
Yoga With Adriene
Another great, free resource, for low—stress and more mindfulness—based approach, is YouTube channel Yoga With Adriene. It features countless videos of yoga practice for different levels and needs, from stress reducing to back pain relieving sessions. This yoga practice is recommended by Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine, author, and founder of widely used Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) method.
Meditation, especially mindfulness—based practice, is one simply amazing "exercise" for mind and body. If you are skeptical or have never tried it, hold on! You really should not dismiss this practice that has been scientifically proven to:
Help you sleep better
Help you cope with some symptoms of anxiety and depression
Reduce psychological difficulties of chronic pain
Improve cognitive and behavioral functions
Help reduce symptoms of irritable bowel symptoms and ulcerative colitis, and
Help with insomnia
According to Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School:
"Meditation literally changes your brain" and it changes it for the better
Hence, this could be the perfect at home routine in these stressful times, especially for those prone to feelings of loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression. And even for the rest of us, the benefits of slowing down, focusing on our breath, reducing stress, and improving our cognitive and behavioral functions, cannot be argued against.
Best Meditation Apps
Headspace and Calm Apps
When it comes to meditation Headspace and Calm are leading the pack in award—winning apps, but their subscription is somewhat pricey at $70 per year. Good news is Headspace is currently offering a selected collection of meditations, sleep, and movement exercises called Weathering the Storm, free for everyone, which is pretty neat. So take advantage of this offer and see how you like it.
In addition, there are plenty of excellent meditation resources that you can get completely free. The two best free meditation apps that I found are Insight Timer and Oak, both with glowing reviews in App Store.
This app has a very simple interface and structure, offering guided practices with focus on meditation, breathing, or sleep, for a total of 8 different modules, plus progress tracking. Each practice can be customized for duration, instructor's voice, and background sound or music. Other than that, the app is very streamlined and intuitive to use.
Insight Timer App
This app has a community of 14 million members and it offers 40,000 free meditations of various length and focus, taught by many meditation teachers. You can search practices by benefits (sleep, anxiety, etc.), by length, or by type of practice (sound, movement, mindfulness, etc.).
In addition to apps, another source worth mentioning is Mindfulness Exercises website that offers free, well—organized mindfulness courses and classes, suitable for various levels, from beginner to advanced.
What About Kids?
Lastly, I cannot help but think about all the parents who, due to the current stay—at—home orders, are struggling to find an indoor activity that will get their little ones away from their screens and up and moving. According to World Health Organization all healthy children ages 5 to 17 should get 60 minutes of daily exercise, most of which should be aerobic. Physical exercise is crucial for youth, as it has been proven to help develop healthy musculoskeletal tissues (bones and muscles), cardiovascular system (heart and lungs), neuromuscular awareness (coordination and movement control), maintain healthy body weight, and is also associated with improving anxiety and depression in young people.
So how do you accomplish this important task if you live in an apartment without a backyard and you'd rather avoid the aftermath of indoor soccer or frisbee play?
As a dancer, Zumba fan, and a mom, my favorite kids' indoor workout is GoNoodle. This 100% free app that serves over 14 million of kids and that is being used by many schools as well, is both super fun for kids of all ages and is a great aerobic exercise, with some educational elements sprinkled throughout as a bonus. Kids can choose from: engaging dance routines with great choreographies; simple and fun Zumba Kids exercises; Flow and Empower Tools for yoga and mindfulness practices specifically curated for kids; Fresh Start Fitness with more demanding fitness routines for older kids; and many other great games and activities, like How To videos etc.
The best part is, GoNoodle dance, Zumba, and fitness routines are also great for adults, so you can turn this into a fun family at—home activity. You will not only get a descent aerobic exercise out if it, but also a free—pass to let your inner dancing queen loose. So go ahead and have fun with it!