Across the US, millions of us are realizing that we’ll be social distancing for a while. If you’ve put your workouts on pause or don’t work out at all, it might be time to think about at-home workouts to keep the blood flowing.
No time? We consulted with several fitness experts who explained that even quick workouts can be beneficial, and we’ve found free online resources and expert-recommended gear to help everyone from time-strapped adults to seniors and kids crush their home fitness goals.
15 minutes can help form healthy habits
Trying to squeeze in a long exercise session every day, or even a few days per week, can be overwhelming, especially when you are crunched for time, don’t have a dedicated space or can’t seem to stay motivated.
But can you spare 15 minutes? Even that can help a lot. The key: Just do it. “For those of us who are time-strapped, it’s important to know that even 15 minutes of exercise will benefit you, so get rid of that all-or-nothing attitude,” says Claire Gray, a certified pre- and post-natal trainer and creator of The Mamatrainer, a fitness training app for pre- and post-partum women. She notes that exercise can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, improve mood and increase energy and alertness. “Exercise also improves cardiovascular health when performed in bouts of 10 minutes or more,” she says. “This includes improvements in glucose tolerance, lipid profiles and vascular function.”
Short workouts have benefits for all ages
“Fifteen minutes of focused and thoughtful exercise could be the very thing between that person and a better mood, improved mental clarity, a reduction in stress, a sense of accomplishment and maintenance of good habits,” according to Cody Hill, a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer for Camp Gladiator, an Austin, Texas-based fitness camp. He adds that it could provide enough stimulus to help you maintain your hard-earned progress from previous training sessions. “Chase progress, not perfection, and make a 15-minute workout happen when strapped for time,” he says.
Eric the Trainer, a certified personal trainer, host of “Celebrity Sweat” on Amazon Prime and host of his own free 60-minute Zoom classes, stresses the importance of fitness for seniors. “As we age, our bodies naturally begin to stiffen due to a decrease in our overall circulation,” he says. “It’s important to stretch, move and even break a sweat daily.” He adds that this “keeps nutrient-rich blood moving around the body. It also has been proven to enhance your mood, an important benefit for older people.”
Thomas DeLauer, certified personal trainer and YouTube star, says seniors with limited mobility achieve a tremendous benefit from shorter workouts, which allow them to focus on quality over quantity. “By keeping the workouts shorter, you may trigger less post-workout inflammation (which is a natural result of working out), which can help improve mobility.”
Eric the Trainer also notes that self-isolation puts a major damper on kids’ active lifestyles. Exercising even briefly “can provide a constructive platform for parent/child interaction, something that has been threatened by the one-two punch of adolescence plus the rise of the digital age,” he said.
Amie Hoff, a certified personal trainer and wellness and fitness professional, agrees that a fun-focused regimen of brief exercise can benefit kids. “Fifteen minutes of activity is just enough time for them to think of it as a game and not exercise,” she says. “Get the whole family involved for bonding time and developing a routine of adding exercise to your day.”
Fast free workout programs
Well + Good, a healthy living platform dedicated to fitness and health, has loads of free workouts on its YouTube channel, including these at 15 minutes or less:
Camp Gladiator has introduced #HustleFromHome, a series of free, live virtual workouts that you can access through its Facebook page. Most workouts are closer to 60 minutes, but Camp Gladiator also offers printable workouts for people looking to exercise at their own pace. Workouts are accompanied by two-minute videos in which a personal trainer walks through the exercises to get started.
GoNoodle, a fitness program for kids, is used in schools by 14 million kids per month. It also has quick home-based programs, which have become popular during self-isolation. Two programs that we suggest: Indoor Recess and House Party, which will keep the kids moving and occupied so that parents can get other things done.
YouTube is an excellent resource for free fitness videos of all lengths. Some of our favorite channels for both short- and long-form videos:
- FitnessBlender, BodyFit by Amy and GymRa for a variety of workout styles.
- Moe Jones’s workouts provide serious HIIT training for the kids — and parents — featuring Jones along with real kids working out. His new Tiny Bods full-body workout features animated characters and pumping tunes.
- Yoga with Adriene, Yoga with Tim and Cosmic Kids are all editor favorites for yoga.
- Ange’s Pilates provides a calming and calorie-burning 13-minute workout with sliders as well as other longer workouts.
Quick workout equipment for adults
There’s a lot you can accomplish at home with just your body and a few feet of space. But if you want to level up, here’s some gear to consider:
Body Sport Neoprene 1-Pound Dumbbell ($7.96; amazon.com)
Dumbbells are an easy way to add resistance to your workouts and many online fitness programs use them. These durable 1-pound weights are a great place to start. Want something more substantial? Try AmazonBasics Neoprene Workout Dumbbell Hand Weights Set ($41.02, originally $43.49; amazon.com) that comes with 3-, 5- and 8-pound weights plus a weight rack for neat storage.
Sneaker Lab Shoe Wipes ($7.99; amazon.com)
Some online workouts can be done barefoot or in stocking feet, while others require sneakers. If you plan to wear your sneakers inside, keeping them clean will prevent the transfer of dirt and germs from outdoors to your workout surface. These wipes won’t damage sneaker leather, and they use biotechnology to clean at a microscopic level.
FitKit Pro ($44.99; amazon.com)
This kit, created by Hoff, packs home workout essentials into a compact case. “The FitKit Pro offers bands, strength and cardio exercises and flexibility moves that can be done anytime, anywhere,” she says.
Manduka Pro Yoga Mat (starting at $110; amazon.com)
Paris Alexandra, co-founder of body-positive yoga studio BK Yoga Club, says, “Yoga is an excellent workout to do while on a fitness journey and also helps to relieve stress.” She notes the importance of a good yoga mat and recommends this one because of its durability, good grip and easy-to-clean surface. (And if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, earlier this year, we asked a bunch of experts which yoga mats they like the best, and many of their picks are under $100.)
Peach Bands Resistance Bands Set ($18.99, originally $24.99; amazon.com)
Resistance bands can sculpt your butt, hamstrings and thighs as well as your arms, back, shoulders and abs. This set contains four bands of varying resistance: light, medium, heavy and X-heavy.
Best Choice Products 3-Piece HDPE Kettlebell Exercise Fitness Weight Set ($59.99; amazon.com)
Kettlebells are incredibly versatile, so they are a wise investment. They can be used for weight training as well as weighted cardio exercises and core work. This set of three — 5 pounds, 10 pounds and 15 pounds — is a great place to start.
Power Reels ($69.99; amazon.com)
Eric the Trainer likes these for the hard-to-reach deltoids. “They maintain a constant resistance on the muscle, allowing nutrient-rich blood to race into the muscles behind the shoulders,” he says. “They’re also excellent for posture.”
Stott Pilates Toning Balls by Merrithew (starting at $11.69; amazon.com)
Moira Merrithew, co-developer of the Stott method of Pilates, says these weighted balls can easily be incorporated into a variety of sculpting exercises for lean, strong muscles. “Use them to add challenge and intensity to your Pilates mat work, equipment-based routines, barre and interval workouts,” she suggests.
SKLZ Corewheels ($35.99; amazon.com)
Michael Cummings, certified strength and conditioning specialist, calls these the Swiss army knife of at-home equipment because they can be used for abdominal rolls, pushups, chest flys and more. “They can also be used for stretching and to improve flexibility and joint range of motion,” he says.
Quick workout equipment for kids
SPRI Exercise Dice Game ($12.80; amazon.com)
These dice are a fun way to get the kids (and adults) moving. Roll the dice and do what they say — one tells you the move and the other tells you how many seconds or reps, like 30 seconds of jumping jacks or 10 reps of squats.
Mesuyoku Tangle-Free Ball Bearing Jump Ropes ($11.99, originally $15.89; amazon.com)
This two-pack of jump ropes can be used by everyone in the fam. Kids will have so much fun jumping that they won’t realize they’re exercising!
Really Good Stuff Children’s Yoga Mat ($39.36; amazon.com)
This yoga mat is printed with 24 different yoga poses, perfect for when the kids need to unwind and stretch. They can try the printed poses on their own or practice during an online class with the whole family.
This is going to be our “normal” for a while, so why not try to weave quick workouts into your day? Your body, your brain and your emotional well-being will thank you.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.