A New Year Advice Column

Physical activity doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Get up and move around!

By JD Brant 

If you’re anything like me, then you’re not the biggest fan of workout videos—YouTube tutorials included. Nothing beats the experience of live instruction in a group setting, music pulsating, bodies gyrating, and everybody’s having a jolly good time. While many gyms are reopening under COVID restrictions across the country, my social media tells a cautionary tale: Many people are expressing their concern over returning to their fitness routines under the restrictions. This is a perfectly fine emotion to feel, know why? You can work out anywhere. Know what else? You can have fun doing it.  

Instead of going the traditional route of posting websites of workout videos for you to follow at home, I thought I’d share some of my COVID workout tips for beating the bulge without a traditional gym membership. If it’s been a while since you’ve done any sort of exercise, worry not. These tips work well for people who want to ease back into the groove of things and for people who are sticklers for routine. 

Walk Where There’s Resistance

We consume more calories in the winter to keep our bodies warm. According to the American Journal of Human Biology, we also expend more energy when we exercise in the cold, thus burning more calories. That’s why walking in snow can provide just enough of a challenge for your body without overwhelming your muscles. Try finding a sidewalk or bike path with as little as three inches of snow to tread in. A little resistance will fire up your calves, heels, glutes, and more. I’ve been wearing a fit bit and tracking my progress. I shoot for a three-mile walk every morning, and when there’s little snow on the ground, I throw on a pair of beat-up boots and trudge through the muddy wilderness. The same effect, albeit a bit messier, but so worth it. 

Play With Your Cat

This tip might sound pretty basic, and maybe it is, but playing games with your pet has added health benefits for both you and your kitty cat. I recently purchased a laser pointer for my cat to chase around. The key is to ensure that your cat “catches the prize” at the end of the game. With no end goal, your cat can begin feeling anxious and frustrated over not being able to catch the light. Many pet health blogs suggest leaving treats around the room and aiming your laser point at those instead of a random spot on the wall or floor. As weird as it sounds, I’ve found that chasing my cat back and forth along with the laser pointer has given me a stronger sense of camaraderie with my kitty. Short bursts of activity help keep my cat and me on our toes. I did this for ten to fifteen minutes a day when I worked remotely and had time to play with her. I always end our rounds with a treat for her to gobble up, too.

Create Workout Challenges At Home 

If you’re spending more time at home amid looming COVID restrictions, why not spice it up? Heat your kitchen with your cooking skills and your boss dance moves. There’s a reason Zumba classes are popular—dancing feels less of a “chore” activity than traditional weight lifting and cardio classes. Dancing promotes the production of endorphins in the body. Marry that with another endorphin-boosting activity, cooking a scrumptious meal, and you’re in for a euphoric experience. While your asparagus is roasting, blast Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body” and see how many squats you can do in under two minutes. Sitting in front of the TV, watching a nightly news segment? Find out how many lunges you can do before they break for commercial. Disguise activity into your ordinary routine to make it feel more normal for you. At the beginning of the pandemic last year, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of going 45 minutes or an hour into straight aerobic activity. That’s why I’ve started to break that time up into ten-minute intervals during the day. It’s more realistic and feels much more manageable.

Become a Mover for Hire

It’s a well-known fact that fewer people move in the winter, but it’s the best time to move; moving companies charge 20-30% less for their services. Another workout suggestion: If you genuinely don’t care about making much money, join your neighborhood’s Nextdoor group and ask around to see who needs help moving for free. I live on a street pebbled with apartment complexes, and neighbors often help each other haul their furniture and belongings out in a pinch. Nextdoor is a beautiful way of fostering relationships with the people on your street without being intrusive. Be careful to plan out the day and time of the move and how long it will take to haul out more oversized belongings with your neighbor. This activity not only promotes physical health and fitness but you’re also nourishing your social wellness, too.

Self-care includes mental AND physical health. Exercise is proven to alleviate anxiety, depression, and more. Good exercise also doesn’t have to feel tedious or annoying. Spice up your routine and see what happens. Now, get to stepping!

Connect with JD: Twitter | Instagram

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