How To Stay Fit at Home: Advice for the active and not-so-active

Since I’ve been a young man I’ve always wanted to stay in shape and build muscle mass. When I was a young teenager, I rode my bike to the gym every morning, sometimes as early as 5 or 6. I was motivated!

When our gym closed at the beginning of this pandemic I, like many people, was thrown out of my routine. Yes, I could run or ride my bike, but I wanted to continue focusing on building strength in specific areas. I was determined that I wouldn’t end up a pudgy couch-potato by the time the quarantine ended!

So that got me thinking, “How DO I stay fit while I’m stuck at home during a quarantine?”

I thought about what the most important and simplest movements were for a simple full-body workout. Here is the compiled list in no specific order of importance:

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Pull-ups
  • Planks
  • Crunches

These 5 basic exercises work all the major muscle groups of the body and I am able to do many of these exercises with little to no equipment. The equipment I did need wasn’t too expensive.

All the equipment I got was a Pull-up bar, a Jump-rope, Kettle-bell set, Resistance bands, a yoga mat, and a small hand towel so I didn’t sweat on everything. With these pieces of gear, I was able to create my own miniature gym in one of the small bedrooms in our home. Another advantage was that I could assemble this mini-gym wherever and whenever I wanted.

At the bottom of this article, I have attached a PDF that has my workout on it for you to do too. The gear I used as stated earlier was not too expensive.

Special notes for older preppers

Years ago, my great-grandmother fell in her assisted-living apartment and wasn’t found until the next day. She wasn’t able to get to a phone and had to lie there, alone, for hours. That fall started a steep decline in her overall health, something that is quite common among older people.

I was reminded about her fall when I read this in a neighborhood forum:

“Leg strength is really important. Falling can be embarrassing or devastating, or anywhere in between. Right, sometimes you can’t help tripping over something and falling. But even after tripping, good leg strength and balance can often help you avoid falling. If you live in a two-story house and often use that staircase, that’s really good for your leg strength. If you live in a one-story house and don’t work on leg strength, look for ways to change your situation, and develop stronger leg muscles.

Yesterday my husband and I had our annual “wellness review” with our health insurance company. One question we were each asked was if we have had a fall in the past few months. Routine question from our PCP is if we have had a fall in the past year. Maybe when we passed a certain age that’s on their official list of things to ask along with what medications and supplements we take. Fortunately, neither of us has had a fall in that time.

I recently listened to an online presentation by Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, neurologists who specialize in brain health, which included urging people to work on their leg strength. Apparently leg strength is related to brain health and longevity. You can read a quick summary of the study they referred to here. Really, really fascinating.”

Just being able to walk around is not enough to build strong legs. You have to be purposeful about adding specific training exercises to your daily routine, and this is something you can begin to do right now, wherever you happen to be.

Another note about the importance of leg strength is that as we age, knee and hip replacements become more common. My wife had hip replacement surgery 3 years ago. The cartilage in her hip joint had deteriorated and she was quite young to require a full replacement. However, her body and legs were strong and within just 6 weeks of her surgery, she was ziplining in Costa Rica.

With knee replacements or hip replacements, you need those quads, hamstrings, and glutes to be as strong as you can get them.

As well, with aging, can come a loss of balance and longer healing time. All excellent reasons to begin building leg strength now.

How to build leg strength

Start small with this simple workout. Again, it’s something you can easily do at home. The only equipment you might want to buy is a set of ankle weights.

This 6 exercise program is based on “sets” and “reps”.

A “rep”, or repetition, is how many times you do a movement. Example: 15 reps of ankle circles means you will circle, or rotate, your ankle 15 times.

A “set” is how many times you repeat the number of reps. Example: 2 sets of 15 reps means you will do that exercise 15 times for the first set, rest a few moments, and then do the same exercise another 15 times for the second set. Be sure to rest between sets.

If this leg workout is too hard for you, decrease the number of reps to where you are still pushing yourself but not to the point where you aren’t making progress. If you’re beginning at ground zero, Start with 8 reps and assess the level of difficulty. When a rep becomes too easy, then add 2 more reps or another set.

1. Ankle circles “ 2 sets of 15 reps (one set per leg)
Do this seated. Rotate your ankle clockwise for one set and counter-clockwise for the second set. Repeat with the other leg.
2. Sit-to-stand “ 2 sets of 12 reps
Start seated in a chair at whatever height works for you and then stand upright. Sit back down and repeat this motion 12 times, if possible. If you must use something like a table for support, do so, but your goal should be to stand up without any additional support.
3. Knee-extensions “ 2 sets of 15 reps (one set per leg)
Sit in your chair. Raise one leg, straighten it, and then lower it. Repeat 15 times for one leg and 15 for the other. Work toward doing this twice for each leg. As this becomes easier, try adding lightweight ankle weights to increase the level of difficulty.
4. Standing Knee Flexion “ 2 sets of 15 reps (one set per leg)
Stand and hold on to something for support (if you need it) and flex your leg by bringing your heel to your bum. Then straighten it back to normal. Repeat 15 times with the right leg and 15 times for the left leg. This is another exercise that you can add ankle weights to increase the level of difficulty as well as increasing sets and reps.
5. Partial squats “ 2 sets of 12 reps
Stand with your feet apart, squat down about halfway then stand back up and repeat that 12 times. If a halfway position is too difficult, bend your knees and squat to any level that you can do comfortably. As your legs become stronger, you’ll be able to do a partial squat lower and lower.
6. Hip Marching “ 2 sets of 12 reps (one set per leg)
Sit upright in your chair and with your forearms on the top of your leg, then raise one leg off the ground, then lower it, then raise the other leg up and lower it. Repeat 12 times. As this becomes easier, increase reps and sets and/or add lightweight ankle weights.

Quarantine Home Workout printable

Here is the workout I’ve been doing from home for the past couple of months. It has helped me maintain and build my strength and endurance, although I greatly missed my gym workouts.


What other exercises or advice do you have for someone who is unable to get to a gym or in some other way continue their regular exercise routine?

Updated July, 2020

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