Self-isolating? Quarantined? Tips from the Heart Foundation for staying active

As more and more Australians find themselves isolated at home due to COVID-19, the Heart Foundation is offering tips and tricks for staying active when alone and in confined spaces. 

“COVID-19 is disrupting almost every aspect of Australians’ lives, including our physical activity routines – like going to the gym, playing team sports or even walking with a group of friends,” said Heart Foundation Direct of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton. 

“If you’re at home for long periods, there might be a temptation to spend more time on the couch, but we would encourage Aussies in this situation to find ways to stay fit, active and heart-healthy.” 

Physical inactivity is a key risk factor for heart disease, which continues to be the single leading cause of death in Australia. In 2018, 48 Australians died every day from heart disease, or about one every half hour. 

Yet even before this pandemic, only a minority of Australians were active enough for good heart health. Just 22 per cent of 5-17 year olds, 15 per cent of 18-64 year olds, and 17 per cent of over-65s meet Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines. 

Here are the Heart Foundation’s tips and tricks for staying active at this time: 

Any physical activity is better than none 

“Try to move in as many ways as you can throughout the day,” Professor Shilton said. 

Build up over 30 minutes a day 

The Australian guideline for adults is to build up over 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity. “This is about the equivalent of a brisk walk – enough to make you puff a little, but still be able to conduct a conversation,” he said. “Aim for 30 minutes a day or more.” 

Moving about while at home

Ideas include:

• Catch up on gardening. 

• If you’re lucky enough to have an exercise bike or swimming pool, use them! 

• Develop your own short exercise routine and do it several times a day (adding up to at least 30 minutes). 

• Use YouTube to find a home workout that best suits your fitness needs. 

• Declutter and give away items to charity. 

• Paint a room or restore a tired piece of furniture. 

• Get the rusty bike/s from the shed and restore them 

• Brush up on your golf-putting skills. 

• Indoor bowls, if you have room. 

• If you can access an activity tracker, watch your steps. Aim for 10,000 a day and maybe introduce a challenge with friends and family members (most steps/active minutes). 

Building strength 

Muscle strengthening exercises are also recommended on at least two days each week. Try: 

• Water bottle weight workout – fill a water bottle, milk carton or similar with water and do some light weights with it. 

• Do some resistance exercises against a wall or chair. 

• Follow a simple program of yoga, step-ups using a makeshift step, modified push-ups or sit-ups, lifting weights, lunges, calf raises and half squats. 

Sit less 

“More and more research is showing that it’s not good for your health to be sitting or lying down for long periods during waking hours,” Professor Shilton said. 

• Avoid sitting for long periods; break it up by moving about the house. 

• On the mobile phone? Stand, or walk around the house as you talk. 

• Set timers/reminders to get up and move. 

• Do some exercises (push-ups, sit-ups or half-squats) in the TV ad breaks. 

• Try standing for activities for which you may usually sit (TV, folding washing, phone calls).