Image: Unsplash/Kate Trifo

How do you stay fit and healthy when working from home during the coronavirus lockdown?

Unfortunately, phrases like “corona-kilos” and memes joking or despairing about weight gain are now circulating on pretty much every single social platform. This, coupled with the sometimes harrowing coverage about COVID-19, can be extremely triggering for people with eating disorders according to the Butterfly Foundation, which is advising people who are living with eating disorders to switch off their social media accounts.

Whatever brought you to this article, it’s time to cut through the noise and be realistic.

Here are some tips for staying fit and healthy when working from home:

  • Set a schedule
  • Stick to your schedule
  • Stand up at least once an hour
  • Leave the house once a day, even if it’s not to exercise
  • Get creative with what you have
  • Plan your meals, and more importantly, don’t skip them
  • Keep track of how you’re feeling physically and mentally
  • Get competitive
  • Drink water like it’s going out of fashion
  • Give yourself a break.

Set a schedule

If you’re someone who comes under the categories of ‘gym head’ or ‘fitness fanatic’, gym closures may be a real struggle and that’s okay. Losing any part of a daily routine that makes you feel good can be tough. You might feel like going to the gym is your ‘you time’, or that it makes you feel more together. Feeling helpless in the face of the coronavirus pandemic is a natural response.

Set a schedule to get that feeling of control back, even if it’s just a little bit. Choose the days you are going to exercise and pat yourself on the back when you do.

Stick to your schedule

Setting a schedule is the easy bit, but sticking to the schedule may be no easy feat. If you are in a mindset where you just want to stick your head in the sand, or go for a nap on your lunch break, this is fair, but remember that sticking to the schedule you set out for yourself will give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the week. And don’t forget about the endorphins. The endorphins make it all worth it.

Stand up at least once an hour

Give your behind a break. Stand up, stretch your arms, walk around your house. Bonus points for going outside and getting some fresh air. Standing up once an hour will help reset your body and mind while you’re working and you don’t even have to break a sweat.

Leave the house once a day, even if it’s not for exercise

Leave the house once a day, even if that just involves going out to the garden or walking to the corner shop and back, while obviously always maintaining safe social distancing.

There is nothing that a walk can’t fix. It can’t get any more strange out there so run, skip, hop, jump, dance your worries away in the fresh air and it will leave you with that feel-good dopamine hit.

Get creative with what you have

Home work-out gear has pretty much been wiped out from most retailers for the foreseeable future but that doesn’t mean you have to just rely on cardio.

Fill up milk cartons (or wine bottles) to use as dumbbells, fill a bag with stones for a kettlebell, or use a sturdy chair for arm dips or step-ups. Don’t despair over a lack of equipment — see this as a time to get inventive with the resources you do have.

Plan your meals, and more importantly, don’t skip them

Plan out your meals and aim to eat at the same time every day. The routine will help keep your metabolism in check. By planning out a grocery list and meals for the week, it will help you cultivate variety, keep the nutrition value high in your meals, and give you something to look forward to. Use the time you would usually spend commuting to spend more time on recipes you might not have tried before.

Resist the urge to skip meals if you are worried about weight gain during the lockdown. Skipping meals will make you more likely to over-eat and it has been proven to slow down your metabolism.

Keep track of how you’re feeling physically and mentally

Don’t get into a habit of systematically weighing yourself. Our weight fluctuates constantly, and the number won’t give you the stats you need during this time.

If you are feeling anxious about potential weight gain or losing out on the resources to advance your fitness, start keeping a journal about how you are feeling physically, and on another column, write down how you are feeling mentally. Sometimes, our own words, laid out in front of us offer the best perspective. If you don’t know how to explain why you feel lethargic, cranky or fatigued, start keeping track.

Get competitive

There is nothing like competition to maintain your motivation. Getting competitive with friends to beat your own personal fitness goals is a great way of staying connected, while also giving you an incentive to keep your healthy living on track. Start a group chat and add daily updates, give your friend a call or collaborate using the numerous fitness apps and wearables out there.

Drink water like it’s going out of fashion

Aim to drink at least two litres of water each day. Water is good for literally every aspect of your health, from your skin to digestion, circulation to nutrient absorption. It will also help curb boredom eating and control hunger if, like most, you start thinking about lunch right after you have finished your breakfast.

Give yourself a break

A global pandemic is not the time to start being self-deprecating. While there may be a lot of marketing messaging out there saying “No excuses”, remember they are usually trying to sell you something.

Do not be hard on yourself for not being amazing every day; these are extremely unsettling times. Take small steps, do what you can to stay fit and healthy when working from home, but don’t make it about guilt and/or punishment.

Most importantly, stay home. This will all be over soon, I hope.

Read: Working from home due to coronavirus? Here are 10 productivity tips

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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