6 exercise tips for home workouts during the pandemic

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Sherri McGee McCovey

I've lived with type 1 diabetes (t1d) for more than two decades. Morning exercise has always been my time to move, meditate, and take in the fresh air of a new day.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed that.

Not wanting to take a chance with my health, for nearly a year I've looked for exercise tips for home workouts that I can do inside the townhouse I share with my husband (who has type 2 diabetes) and our 13-year-old son, who's home distance learning. There have definitely been times we just didn't feel motivated — especially during the winter months — but together, we've managed to weave workouts into our routines. Whether moving along to exercise videos through the TV or laptop, trying out an app on our smartphones, or even using furniture for support, we've made an effort to stay active.

If we can do it, then you can, too! Here are six tips for home exercise that can help you feel good and stay healthy.

1. Get the family involved (and make it fun)

Most kids love a challenge, especially from a parent. To get everyone in on the workout, make a plan as a family and inject a little competition. Get down on the floor together for plank contests. See who can do the most pushups and log the most jumping jacks in 30 seconds.

There are tons of exercise tips for home workouts and online exercise sessions you can try. Choose one that works best for your space and comfort level. Consider offering an incentive for the winner, like a healthy dessert. Being accountable to one another can help you stay on track and make it a habit.

2. Try an exercise plan (and stay on track)

Another great home exercise tip: Find a plan that works for your lifestyle. Fit Thru Faith (FTF) is a spiritually infused whole-body program designed to help people (particularly African American women) regain energy, manage excess weight, and ignite purpose and good health. Founded by life coach and fitness expert Charlie Jordan Brookins, FTF offers a low-impact exercise on YouTube every Monday "Fit Thru Faith 15 Workout" (7 a.m. PST) that can jumpstart your week. If you miss the live session, it's available to view later. The Fit Thru Faith Village Facebook group offers challenges, advice, support, healthy recipes, and — if you want it — personal coaching with Brookins.

I also find daily advice, information, and guidance around health challenges as a member of the Diabetes Strong Community Facebook Group. After all, living with t1d takes a village.

3. Notify yourself (so you know when it's time to move)

This home exercise tip is easy — pick a daily time to make your health a priority. Setting an alert on a smartwatch or cellphone to remind yourself it's time to move (even if it's just for 10 minutes) makes it easy to remember. Reminders can also help you ensure your blood sugar levels stay in range.

I wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which makes it easy to track my blood glucose levels before, during, and after exercise. The type I use, a Dexcom G6, also alerts me if my blood glucose level is high or low, which offers peace of mind. Knowing that I'll be alerted of any major swings helps me exercise more confidently, especially if I'm home alone!

4. Take advantage of your indoor space (and it won't feel like exercise)

Our townhouse sits on three levels. This provides the perfect space to grab the laundry basket, set a stopwatch, and hit the stairs until the timer buzzes. After each interval, I sit down for a minute. Then repeat.

Another great exercise is an indoor obstacle course. Figure out how many steps (or minutes) it will take to complete a track around the house, then consider safely adding a weight (whether in your hands or on your legs), and complete the track daily. Afterward, you can hit the garage — or the deck, if the weather permits — for a set of lunges and squats.

5. Use an app (that will boost any mood and workout)

There's an app for every type of movement and length of time you desire. For instance, the Samsung Health app features a one-week exercise class for beginners as well as an at-home boot camp and bodyweight workout. To track daily steps, you can activate a pedometer on your smartwatch or phone.

During these stressful times, my family has found solace by listening to the Chilled Jazz station on Spotify. And when we want to dance around the house, we crank up the '80s Jam Session playlist.

Now is also a good time to take advantage of free trials that have become plentiful during the pandemic. I've always wanted to try meditation, so the free trial on the meditation app Headspace was the perfect opportunity to do it without the obligation. I also took advantage of the 14-day free at-home yoga trial offered through YogaWorks. While I hope to someday attend in-person sessions, I enjoyed being able to stay active with these offerings from the comfort and safety of my home.

6. Drink up (because staying hydrated is crucial)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, water helps keep the body at normal temperature. It lubricates and cushions joints, protects the spinal cord and other tissues, and helps the body get rid of waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. As if that isn't enough, water is especially important after exercise.

If you find plain water hard to drink, try making lemon-, lime-, or cucumber-infused waters. Orange-infused water can help boost post-workout low blood sugar. Add basil to strawberry-lemon water for a helping of antioxidants. And add ginger to mango-raspberry water to support digestion.

Are you thinking about a move toward CGM technology? For more information on these devices and how they can benefit your daily diabetes management, check out this article on the future of diabetes technology on Health Insights.

Sherri McGee McCovey

Bio: Sherri McGee McCovey is a Los Angeles-based television writer/producer and a New York Times bestselling author. She has lived with type 1 diabetes more than 20 years. She hopes to provide valuable tips, insight, and encouragement to those who also live with the condition.

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