How Do I Start Exercising Again After Being Housebound Due To The Pandemic?

As part of Northwell Health Physician Partners, we at Westchester Health would like to share the following article from Northwell Health written by Barbara Barry, Physical Therapist, concerning aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

In brief, the article discusses:

  • How to resume an exercise routine after being housebound
  • How not to injure yourself
  • Check with your doctor to make sure you are in good enough health to begin exercising again
  • Determine what type of exercise motivates you, then start slowly
  • Alternate more intensive workouts with slower ones

The full article is reproduced below.


I Was An Active 60-Year-Old Before The Pandemic. How Can I Start Exercising Again?

One physical therapist’s tips for getting back into an exercise routine.

Dear Doctor,

Before the pandemic, I was fairly active. But at 60 years old, being housebound for more than 80 days has left me feeling like an unmotivated couch potato. How can I get back on track with an exercise routine and what should I be aware of to avoid hurting myself as I try to get back in shape?


“Sedentary Sally”

Dear Sally:

If you want to get back to exercising after being sedentary for an extended period, it’s always a good idea to first check with your physician to make sure you are in good enough health to begin exercising again.

Once you have your doctor’s go-ahead, ask yourself what motivates you. Is it walking on the beach? Working out with weights? Walking inside on a treadmill? Doing yoga or Pilates? Find what motivates you, and then start slowly. If you choose to walk, find a path, trail, or a few streets around the neighborhood that you are familiar with and where you can walk while practicing social distancing.

If you have a fitness tracker, use it to provide motivation as you track your progress and improvements.

A good place to start is by planning out your first week, and keep it simple. Walk one block the first day, skip a day, then walk slightly longer the next day. Keeping a log so you can monitor your progress can help to keep yourself accountable and stick to your plan. Talk to family members about your goals and get them involved. Before you know it, they may be joining you for a nice walk after dinner.

There are many activities you can do in and around your house to help you stay strong and active, too. If you have a set of stairs, use them! Walk up and down the stairs a few times per day, and then increase your daily repetitions as you feel stronger. Other exercises that require little or no equipment include stretching, mini squats, marching in place, chair exercises, and upper body workouts using light weights (or water bottles!). Always increase repetitions slowly and be sure to listen to your body.

Keeping a garden is another great way to stay active and healthy at the same time. If you don’t have a space for a full-fledged garden, caring for even just a few plants outside or inside can help to get you into a routine. For example, watering plants requires you to carry a fairly heavy bucket or set up a hose to tend to your plants’ needs.

Interested in more “nontraditional” workouts? You might be surprised to hear that many of your everyday housework tasks—such as laundry and cleaning—can also be categorized as exercising. You’re lifting laundry, bending down to clean, etc., all of which provides a good, low impact workout. Whenever you have to lift anything, be sure to keep your core tight, your back in a neutral position, and lift through your legs to avoid injuring your back or hips.

Most importantly, when you’re getting back to exercise after a long absence, you want to be careful of doing too much too soon. Alternate more intensive workouts with less intensive ones, such as biking leisurely one day and then doing a brisk walk the next.

Muscles and bones experience microscopic damage during exercise, and require 24 to 48 hours of rest for adequate recovery. Attempting to exercise too soon with no recovery can lead to muscle sprains or tears.

Remember that fitness and health is a lifelong process, and slow and steady wins the race.

Learn what Westchester Health is doing to protect our patients and staff against COVID-19

We are here to provide the care you need, when you need it. To learn what precautions we’re taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and keep you safe, visit our Coronavirus Digital Resource Center. To learn how we’re responding to the outbreak and what to do if you’re feeling sick, visit our FAQ page (frequently asked questions). Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

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