In Your Free Time

Staying physically fit can create benefits now and in retirement

Here are simple ways you can stay in shape at home to help maintain your health.

by Julie Halpert - October 26, 2020

If you’ve found that more time spent at home makes staying physically fit challenging, you aren’t alone. More than a third of the respondents in a WebMD poll 1 said they gained 4 to 6 pounds because of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whether it is the pandemic restrictions or your retirement status that is keeping you closer to home, there are some simple ways to help you get and stay in shape, no matter how busy you are. And the benefits of doing so will outlast the pandemic and serve you well throughout your life.

Research shows that being physically fit could make you feel less depressed and more mentally resilient while increasing bone and muscle strength.2 These benefits decrease the likelihood of falls as you get older while letting you recover faster if a fall does happen. Staying in shape could also lower your health care costs, freeing up funds for your retirement budget or other priorities.

Here are some steps (and other workout moves) to consider.

Squeeze in some workouts

If your schedule is usually full, leaving you no time for the gym (if it’s open), consider breaking up your fitness routine each day in small increments, starting in the morning. Those minutes can add up.

  • Rise just 10 minutes early to do some stretching
  • Take a brisk, 10-minute walk during lunch
  • Stretch while seated at a table or desk.
  • Stand during a phone call.
  • Walk a flight of stairs in your home
  • Walk a few laps around your yard
  • Do some pushups, sit-ups, crunches, and squats before dinner or bedtime.

Stay in shape with moderate exercise

If you’re getting back into exercise or have never done it, try to avoid higher-impact motion, such as jumping, because that can be hard on your joints. If you already exercise vigorously, including participating in marathons, it’s important to cross-train, which means working different muscles on different days, because repetitive motions take a toll on your body.

Take a hike

Running can be a great heart-healthy exercise. But so is walking. Walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at a moderate pace can yield benefits such as losing weight, lowering your blood pressure, boosting your memory, and reducing stress.3

Get your wheels spinning

If you go cycling — on a stationary bike or the outdoor variety — you’ll enjoy benefits such as building lower-body strength. Plus, it’s easy on the joints. When you sit on a bike, you put your weight on a pair of bones in the pelvis, whereas with walking, you put your weight on your legs. Cycling can make it especially beneficial for anyone with joint pain or age-related stiffness. Cycling for 45–60 minutes at a vigorous pace four times a week can produce a range of health benefits, one study revealed.4

Get rowing

Using an elliptical or rowing machine 30 to 60 minutes two to three times a week gives you a great low-impact cardio workout. With a rowing machine, your whole body — from legs and core to upper back and arms — can feel the positive effects. 

Build your strength and flexibility

You could also consider at least 20 minutes of strength training each day — anything involving resistance such as lifting weights — and flexibility exercises like yoga or stretching.

Get inspired by others — virtually

Nothing can compare to the camaraderie of exercising with your pals. But virtual fitness groups could provide motivation and accountability as well.

Many gyms, for example, are providing live digital fitness classes and physical training sessions. A host of online workout videos are also available. You could also invite your friends to work out with you virtually as well. Going on a walk? Schedule a call with a long-distance pal to keep you motivated.

Keep up the good work(out)

Whatever method you choose, try to stay motivated. The more you develop a routine, the longer you’ll stick with it, and the easier it will be to find the time to accomplish your goal every day. You may be more motivated to stick with exercise and stay in shape if you’re investing your money into regular sessions with a trainer. It may also be motivating to develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle to feel better and to potentially reduce your health care costs in later years.


1“WebMD Poll: Many Report Weight Gain During Shutdown,” WebMD, May 18, 2020.
2“Changes in physical activity and sedentary behaviour due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Cambridge University, May 12, 2020.
3“How to Get the Biggest Benefits of Walking,” Consumer Reports, Nov 4, 2019.
415 benefits of cycling,” Cycling Weekly, May 29, 2019.

Julie Halpert is a Michigan-based freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Family Circle, and MORE magazine.

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