Dr. Don Colbert – As “stay at home” orders continue for most of the country during this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital that we all take care of our bodies. We’ve discussed many ways to eat for your best immune function. But, did you know that exercise is also vital for a healthy immune system? Here, we discuss how exercise helps and an easy immune-boosting full-body home exercise plan. You don’t need equipment, just 20-30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
How does a full-body home exercise plan help immune function? It can:
Reduce system inflammation, allowing the immune system to fight viruses and bacteria more efficiently (1)
- Reduce any high blood sugars, which are associated with higher incidences of infection
- Lower the risk of obesity and diabetes, both of which are associated with more disease
- What’s more, if you’re able to take this easy plan outside in your yard or a park (alone), you’ll also get the amazing mood-boosting benefits of outdoor exercise (2).
Immune-Boosting Full-Body Home Exercise Plan
This simple plan uses 5 different exercise moves, designed to work your upper body, core, and lower body. It also combines both body-weight strength training with varying intensities of cardiovascular exercise. It’s great for your heart (3), brain, and whole body.
Of course, only partake in an exercise that you are healthy enough to try. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
Start with planks. Planks have been shown to tone and condition your core and glutes, including the transverse abdominals. Having a strong core can reduce back pain, improve full-body muscle coordination, and reduce knee and leg injury.
To perform a Straight-Arm Plank:
- Plant hands directly under shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder-width) like you’re about to do a push-up.
- Keep toes on the floor and squeeze glutes to stabilize your body. Your legs should be activated. Do not lock or hyperextend your knees.
- Look at a spot on the floor about one foot beyond your hands to neutralize your neck and spine. Your body should be straight and your head should be in line with your back.
- Start by holding this position for 20 seconds, increasing time as you become more comfortable. But, don’t compromise the posittion or let your hips sag. Keep core tight and body straight.
Forearm Plank: If you’d like to try the forearm plank variation, simply place forearms on the floor with elbows aligned below shoulders and arms parallel to your body at about shoulder width. If flat palms bother your wrists, clasp your hands together.
Side Plank: Lie on your side with one leg stacked on top of the other, then prop your body up on your hand or elbow while keeping feet stacked.
If you are not familiar with the body position for planks, take some time to look them up on youtube, etc. You’ll find many great instructional videos.
Advanced Options: 6-Minute Planks: Try planking for 5 minutes per day by starting in the straight-arm plank for 30 seconds, moving to side planks for 15 seconds each, and finishing in forearm plank for 30 seconds. Then, rest 30 seconds. Repeat plank series 2 more times.
Since you’ve already mastered a plank, the positioning for push-ups is easy.
Start in the same position as a straight-arm plank, keeping your body straight as a board. If needed, drop your knees to the floor rather than staying up on your toes. Keep your body straight in either position.
Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, or a little bit wider, fingers splayed. Then, bend your elbows and lower toward the ground. Continue until you are near the ground, close enough for your nose to touch, and then push back up.
If this is too hard to start, lower until your elbows are at about a 45-degree angle.
Keep your core engaged and back flat. Do not let your hips sag.
Try 5 push-ups to start, and work your way up to 10-20 push-ups at a time.
Advanced Options: To take it to the next level, set a goal of doing 50 push-ups per day for the next 30 days. You’ll be astounded at how much stronger you will end than where you began.
3. WALKING LUNGES
Next, to continue to work the core and glutes, and add the legs, try walking lunges. It’s easiest if you have space such as a hallway to perform several in a row, but you can use smaller spaces if needed.
To do a walking lunge:
- Start by standing upright with your feet together. Then, take a large controlled step forward with your right leg. Lunge by lowering your hips toward the floor so that your front leg/knee forms a 90-degree angle and your back leg/knee lowers towards the floor (but not touching) bending in its own 90-degree angle. Your front leg knee should be directly above your foot.
- Press your right heel into the ground. Then, push off with your left foot and bring it forward in a large, controlled step, repeating the same motion with your left leg forward. This is 2 lunges.
Advanced Options: To add more calf work, raise up onto your toe between lunges. You can also increase the difficulty of walking lunges by adding 5 to 8-pound weights in each hand.
4. MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
Mountain climbers are a great way to work your upper body, core, legs, and heart.
To do mountain climbers first get into a straight-arm plank position. Distribute your weight evenly between your hands and your toes. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart, back flat, abs engaged, and head in alignment.
Then, pull your right knee into your chest as far as you can.
Next, switch, pushing your right knee back to the original position and bringing your left knee to your chest.
Essentially, your running in a plank position.
Start with 30 total mountain climbers (15 with each knee). Work your way to 50.
Advanced Options: As you progress, try doing 100 mountain climbers (50 with each knee) at a time. You can also add high-intensity intervals by slowing to a moderate pace for 10, and then increasing to high intensity for 10, and repeating.
5. RUNNING IN PLACE OR JUMPROPE
Next, stand upright and engage in 5 minutes of running. If homebound, try running in place. If you’re able to get outside and walk (at a fast pace), jog, or run, this is even better.
Or, if you have a jump rope (or most any rope) handy, you’ll get a great full-body workout. Try:
Indoor running in place: Raise one arm up and lift the opposite foot up at the same time so that your knee comes up to the same height as your hips. Quickly hop from one foot to the other and at the same time swing your front arm back and the other arm forwards and up. For a 5-minute run, consider alternating minute to minute with high-knee running and butt-kick running.
Walking, jogging, or running outside: Go out for at least 5-10 minutes. No matter whether your walking, jogging, or running, try using intervals by going at your normal pace (moderate) for 1 minute, and then increasing to high intensity for 1-2 minutes.
Jumprope indoors or outdoors: If you haven’t jumped rope in a while, this one will be tough to start but very rewarding. Try 5-10 minutes. Use a standard two-footed hop jump or a running motion jump.
Exercise is important for brain health, heart health, and strength. And, while our world is battling COVID-19, it’s important to remember that it’s also good for the immune system. Exercise does not have to be difficult, confusing, or require equipment. There are great exercises, utilizing body-weight, you can do in your own home, yard, or neighborhood. Use these and other great at-home habits to stay strong and healthy.