How to Get Back in Shape After Inactivity

How to Get Back in Shape After Inactivity

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Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD


Ahhh, the “quarantine 15.” You’ve been inside your house for almost a year, finished every show and movie on Netflix, and the only exercise you’ve done is walking to and from the fridge. Guilty as charged. But, just because you are homebound does not mean that you need to be a couch potato! Here are six tips and tricks to get you from sedentary to back in shape.

1. Make a routine

Plan out your exercise schedule

What’s the best way to start getting back in shape after months of inactivity? Simple: just start doing something, anything to get your body moving! There are a million different ways to get active, but that doesn’t mean you have to do or try all of them. Pick something you enjoy, stick with it and take it one day at a time. Make cardio your BFF; go for a swim or run, take your bike out for a spin, walk to the coffee shop on your lunch break, or try an online fitness class… but don’t try to do it all in one day.

Rather than spending your free time in a social media blackhole, take the hour you would spend mindlessly staring at your phone and do something that makes you feel good. Start to incorporate time into your day that gets you moving rather than sitting around by removing distractions that may be what made you sedentary to begin with (*cough cough* put down your cell phone).

2. Start slow

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect yourself to go from couch to 5k overnight, especially if you’re getting back in shape after years of inactivity. Start by going for a walk around your neighborhood or local park for at least 30 minutes. Begin with one day a week and gradually increase the number of days and the length of time you go for a walk.

Make your walk fun and throw in some headphones and listen to a podcast or get in the groove with your favorite music. Also, try skipping the elevator and opt for the stairs, or try parking further away from your destination in order to increase mobility and get some extra steps in! Gradually increase the number of days you are active and soon you will find yourself doing something each day of the week.

3. Track your progress

Remember that smartwatch you impulsively bought, but now it’s collecting dust in your nightstand? Yeah, same. Give it another chance and watch your activity levels increase by turning on the activity app. Those hourly reminders to stand up will help motivate you to get active. Track your steps each day and see if you can increase the number of steps you take in a day and set a goal for yourself of the number you want to reach per day!

These devices also track your heart rate during exercise, so they’re also a great way to monitor and track your workout. Plus, most smart devices are programmed to celebrate certain milestones after you work out—and who doesn’t love a little extra positive reinforcement after exercising?

4. Don’t forget to stretch

woman doing yoga

Getting back in shape after an injury can be especially difficult due to lack of mobility or loss of strength. Perhaps the easiest way to get back into an exercise routine is start making stretching a priority before and after you break a sweat.

A great way to get in a full stretch is getting down (dog) with a yoga mat and properly stretching your muscles and joints. No, you probably won’t be doing headstands or twisting into a pretzel but 30 minutes of targeted stretching can help your body ease its way back into an exercise routine. Plus, yoga offers breathing exercises for calming your mind and managing stress and there’s no need to leave the house - go on YouTube or try a virtual class to experience all the benefits yoga has to offer.

5. Fuel your new active lifestyle

You are what you eat, so after months of sitting at home eating potato chips you have become… *surprise surprise* a couch potato! No, I’m not saying to throw everything in garbage, but start becoming aware of what you are eating and make some upgrades. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips, opt for an apple and peanut butter. Rather than every meal coming through a drive thru window, try making a meal at home. Take baby steps.

Also, once you start becoming more active, you’ll need to replenish the nutrients and proteins that you burned during your workout, so make sure to invest in quality supplements and protein powder to refuel your body. Take it a step further and consult with your doctor or a nutritionist about how many calories you should be eating a day and what your macronutrients should be (carbs, fats, protein) per day and make a meal plan. Make sure to start tracking what you are eating in apps like MyFitnessPal so you stay on course and don’t fall back into bad eating habits.

6. Grab a friend

two friends on a walk

Working out at home feels kind of silly at times, but you don’t have to do it alone. Make every day feel like #MotivationMonday and grab a friend, partner, brother, sister, co-worker, *anyone* and meet for a Zoom class or take a socially distanced stroll. Make your friend your accountability buddy to make sure that you both are staying active and not slipping back into your old unhealthy ways.

No friends? No excuses. Join an app like MeetUp to find others in your area that are interested in the same activities as you and start getting social (while keeping socially distanced, of course). Set goals for yourself and each other, and celebrate your milestones to make sure your workouts… well, don’t feel like work!

 

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