Things You Need to Know About Working Out at Home | Hummingbird. It's crunch time. Photo by: Samantha Hurley.

Things You Need to Know About Working Out at Home

This coronavirus pandemic has really changed a lot of aspects of our lives – many of us start to work from home or work from home more, we cook at home or order delivery instead of dining out, we start to work out at home because gyms are closed or some of us don’t feel safe enough to exercise at the gym. What is also true is, we can spend less through eating at home, exercising at home, and even become healthier through this “unwanted” lifestyle change. 

If you have recently decided to start working out at home or thinking about doing it, this article may be helpful to you. For the past three years, I have been exercising at home, averaging three to four days per week, 90 minutes per day including warm up and cool down. Working out regularly has changed me both physically and mentally. My posture is way better than before and I feel stronger and more confident. Besides, exercising at home allows me to do it whenever I want, I don’t need to share the gears or wait in line during rush hours, which saves more time and potentially saves more money. If you want to share the same benefits that working out at home brings, please keep reading.

What do I Need to Start Working Out at Home? 

For starters, it is always good to have a home workout plan. The plan should include how many days a week, how long per session, on what time of which days, and what exercise you are doing on each day. For example, a workout plan could be 3 days per week, lower body on Fridays, upper body on Saturdays, yoga on Sundays, each lasting for 45 minutes starting at 6pm, excluding warm up and cool down. Having a workout plan doesn’t mean that you will have to stick to it, in fact, it can be flexible. You can rearrange this week’s plan if you have an important meeting or appointment for that day or that time. The principle is - make sure the minimum days are guaranteed - 3 days a week in this case.

Next is to figure out what exercise you would like to do. You can do this by downloading an exercise app, looking for online exercise courses, or asking someone else who is already doing it. There are abundant free online recourses that you can find, for example on YouTube. Not everyone can have a home gym, but many workouts actually don’t require special equipment. You can do it with free weights or no weight at all.

Last is to look for workout gear that you will need. Basic and easy to get gear will be an exercise mat or yoga mat. If you are doing weight training, free weights like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells etc. are essential. Don’t forget to get yourself a foam roller as well.

It will take some time to get used to and you may encounter some problems that you didn’t have when you worked out at the gym. Take it slow and ask for professional advice when necessary. 

Problems or Mistakes You May Have with Home Workouts

Some of the problems below may also be related to working from home and some may have existed for a long time without you noticing.

1. Ignore Back or Core Activation Warm Up

This becomes a more obvious problem when you have a sedentary lifestyle, like working at the office, working from home sitting at a chair and working on a computer all day long. It makes your pelvis tilt forward and weakens your core. Check out this article for more about this topic. Hunching over caused for example by working on a computer for a long time put excessive tension on the anterior of your upper body like your shoulders, chest and neck. Jumping right into the main workout session without warming up the loosen core muscles and stiff back muscles can be less effective and potentially harmful.

Movements like cat/cow, crunches and planks are useful for core activation, and cat/cow standing T raise, as well as standing Y raise are good back activating moves.

2. Incorrect Motions

If some part of your body feels sore or painful after a workout that is not designated for that body part, you may be doing the motion incorrectly. This can lead to undesired outcome even injury, such as over bulky trapezius caused by incorrect shoulder exercise or back exercise. This is why knowing what muscle group to focus on in an exercise and building a mind-body connection is so important. Standing in front of a mirror is also a good way to check if you are going through a motion correctly.

3. Skip Warm Up and Cool Down

Warm up and cool down not only optimize workout result, but also prevent injuries. A warm up can include foam rolling and dynamic stretching. A cool down can include foam rolling and static stretching. Check out this article for more about foam rolling.

4. Potential Injuries

Injuries may happen more easily when you are exercising at home, especially when you are trying new workouts with no one around. If you feel pain doing a motion, or you don’t feel confident enough to try it, stop immediately and look for professional advice before going further.

Tips For those Who Work from Home

Recent studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle negatively affect insulin sensitivity, glucose level, endothelial function that are similar to changes that are found in cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases[1][2]. Another study shows that prolonged sitting impairs peripheral blood flow and function, which is associated with cognitive functioning and neurodegenerative diseases. This also applies to regular exercisers. Regular breaks in sitting time, for example a 2-minute light-intensity walking breaks every 30 minutes offsets those changes[3]

In addition, endurance exercise periods as brief as 5 to 10 minutes improves cardiovascular conditioning. Therefore, if you work from home, incorporating your daily workout of 10 minutes or so in your working breaks can kill two birds with one stone.

Do you have other suggestions or problems related to working out at home? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below!


[1] Saurabh S Thosar, Sylvanna L Bielko, Kieren J Mather, Jeanne D Johnston, Janet P Wallace, “Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function”, Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Apr;47(4):843-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000479.

[2] Bernard M F M Duvivier, Nicolaas C Schaper, Matthijs K C Hesselink, Linh van Kan, Nathalie Stienen, Bjorn Winkens, Annemarie Koster, Hans H C M Savelberg, “Breaking Sitting With Light Activities vs Structured Exercise: A Randomised Crossover Study Demonstrating Benefits for Glycaemic Control and Insulin Sensitivity in Type 2 Diabetes”, Diabetologia. 2017 Mar;60(3):490-498. doi: 10.1007/s00125-016-4161-7. Epub 2016 Nov 30.

[3] Sophie E Carter, Richard Draijer, Sophie M Holder, Louise Brown, Dick H J Thijssen, Nicola D Hopkins, “Regular Walking Breaks Prevent the Decline in Cerebral Blood Flow Associated With Prolonged Sitting”, J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Sep 1;125(3):790-798. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00310.2018. Epub 2018 Jun 7.

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