2020 December
Home Workouts are the New Normal

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has discouraged many people from going out to exercise. However, a lack of exercise for a prolonged period of time will lead to a decline in bodily functions. Home workouts have therefore emerged recently and people can stay physically active even at home. How can people raise their health consciousness amid the pandemic for this new normal?


According to the World Health Organization’s recommendations: children and youth aged 5-17 should have at least 60 minutes and adults aged 18-64 should have at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. The recommendation for the elderly is similar to that for adults. During the pandemic, many people have neglected to exercise as there are fewer chances to go out. Lobo Louie, Associate Professor at the Department of Sport, Physical Education and Health of the Hong Kong Baptist University, said that workouts are not limited to aerobic exercises such as running, swimming, and badminton. They can be integrated into daily life, using the home environment to expend energy. “You can walk or take the stairs when getting home from work, or do on-the-spot running, sit-ups or push-ups when watching TV. As long as you are conscious about health and exercise, you can maintain your level of workout at all times.”


Health consciousness helps cultivate workout habits

Wearable exercise devices have become very popular in recent years. Many people use the step-tracking function of smartwatches, with the goal of “walking 10,000 steps per day”. According to Louie, this is just a standard goal and not well-rounded, as walking only focuses on exercising the muscles of the lower limbs. People should suitably include exercises for the upper limbs and core muscle strength, such as push-ups and planks, in their routine so that most of the body’s major muscles can get a good workout. Combining both aerobic and anaerobic exercises at home can strengthen cardiopulmonary functions and muscle strength at the same time.


Louie added that wearable exercise devices have raised people’s health consciousness. “People who have developed a health consciousness tend to start engaging in health behaviors such as workouts. Be it aerobic or anaerobic exercise, it helps improve metabolism and is good for health.” He suggested using the calendar app on the mobile phone to schedule workouts so that they become a habit. Simple fitness equipment such as dumbbells and resistance bands can also be added to the home. Place them in a prominent location to remind yourself to work out whenever you see them.


People without exercise habits should be mindful of HIIT

Hong Kong residents live a busy life and don’t have much time to spend on working out. Therefore, several recent online videos on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) have become a hit. HIIT is now a form of home workouts for many people amid the pandemic, while others use it as a regime to lose weight. Louie explained that HIIT is a workout regime involving short periods of aerobic and anaerobic exercises. It can expend a lot of energy in a short period of time. The muscles will experience excessive oxygen consumption after the workout, i.e. the after-burn effect, which can improve the body’s metabolic rate, thus achieving a better weight loss effect.


However, Louie cautioned that as HIIT alternates between high-intensity and low-intensity exercises, people who have no exercise habits will more likely get injured if they follow such a regime. “People who don’t exercise much can assess their basic physical fitness first. Generally, people who can continue jogging for 15 to 20 minutes have basic physical fitness. They can try some entry-level exercises. After their body has adapted to the intensity of the exercises, they can gradually strengthen their workouts.”


Home workouts are not a substitute for outdoor activities

If there are elders or children at home, what should they pay attention to when working out at home? Louie said that the elderly should exercise their lower limb muscles and balance ability to reduce the risk of falls. However, home-based fall-prevention exercises for the elderly do not have much effect since exercising in an enclosed environment does not give muscle coordination a good workout. He suggested that the elderly should engage in morning walks, as alternating between small and big steps, and moving left and right, will give their lower limbs a more well-rounded workout. Regarding children, Louie said that children aged 3-5 need 180 minutes of exercise every day. They should engage in running, jumping, throwing and catching exercises during their development to strengthen their cardiopulmonary functions and body muscles, as well as improve their coordination skills.


Although working out at home is a good thing to do, Louie cautioned that home workouts can never completely replace outdoor exercise and activities. “Hiking is a case in point. Hiking up and down trails can train muscle contraction and coordination. In addition, the natural environment not only allows our eyes to rest, but also calms our mood, while exposure to the sun is beneficial to our health and skin.”