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Monday Medical: Simple exercises to stay fit at home

Susan Cunningham
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Being at home more doesn’t mean you can’t stay active.

“There are lots of different exercises people can do at home with no equipment,” said Missy Amato, a physical therapist at UCHealth SportsMed Clinics in Steamboat Springs. “It’s important to stay active as it provides a sense of well-being, a sense of control and just helps you feel a little bit happier.”

Amato outlines her top at-home exercises below. Be aware of your own limitations: some of these exercises may not be appropriate for people who are elderly or have other health issues.

Lower Body

Sit to stand: Sit in a chair with feet shoulder-width apart. Lean your nose over your toes and move to standing. Then return to a seated position, moving slowly and with great control.

“For a greater strength and balance challenge, perform the sit-to-stand motion on one leg at a time, or hold weights in your hands,” Amato said. “If you don’t have weights, you can make your own with gallon or half-gallon jugs. A gallon jug weighs eight pounds, and a half-gallon jug weighs four.”

Be sure not to let your knees collapse inward during the exercise.

Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Tighten your abdominals by pulling your belly button in towards your spine, and slowly lift your hips off the floor into a bridge position. Keep your back straight as you move. For a greater challenge, do a single-leg bridge with just one foot pushing on the floor. Make sure to keep your pelvis level as your raise and lower your hips.

Single leg balance: Stand next to a counter or wall for support as needed and balance on one leg.

“You can increase the challenge by closing your eyes, standing on an unstable surface, such as a throw pillow, or bouncing and catching a ball,” Amato said.

Upper Body

Bicep curls: Hold a dumbbell or another weight in each hand, with your palms facing forward. Curl both dumbbells up towards your shoulders, then lower them back down. Repeat.

Tricep extensions: Hold a dumbbell or weight in one hand, then raise your arm straight upward, bending your elbow by your head, and stabilizing with your other hand. Slowly straighten your arm toward the ceiling, then lower it back down and repeat.

Bent over row: Kneel over a chair with one foot on the ground, holding a dumbbell in your hand. Pull your hand up and back, bending your elbow by your side, then lower your arm back down. Repeat.

Core

Toe taps: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your legs off the ground to form a 90-degree angle, also known as tabletop position.

“Engage your abdominals and slowly lower one leg, touching your toes to the floor,” Amato said. “Then return to tabletop.”

Repeat with the opposite leg.

Planks: Begin lying on your stomach, propped up on your elbows. Engage your abdominal muscles and lift your hips and legs into a plank position, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders.

“Keep your shoulders and hips in a straight line,” Amato said. “If this is too difficult, do your plank in a more upright position, leaning into a counter.”

If it feels overwhelming to start an exercise program, remember you can split them up throughout the day. That method is especially helpful if you’re working at a computer and need to get up and move every hour.

“When you have five or 10 free minutes, work on one or two exercises,” Amato said. “Then a couple of hours later when you have another break or free time, do a couple more.”

And don’t forget to take advantage of other online exercise classes: many local gyms and fitness centers are providing virtual options.

Don’t worry if you aren’t able to do as much exercise as you normally would.

“Something is always better than nothing,” Amato said. “Just try to maintain your strength, mobility and balance to tide you over until your routine is a little more normalized.”

For descriptions and videos of these exercises, visit medbridgego.com and use access code QTK74AWN. 

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.


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