How to stay fit and healthy during a lockdown – and have fun doing it

Working out is great for both physical and mental health, and you might be finding it tough if you're suddenly unable to get pumped at the gym, take your bike for a spin on the streets, or lace up your running shoes and hit the trails.

Staying safe at home doesn't have to be lonely or boring though, and there are lots of options to make working out indoors more fun, avoid boredom

The great outdoors, simulated

A treadmill or exercise bike can give you a great cardio workout at home, but staring at a tiny screen as the numbers gradually tick up is no substitute for getting out on the open road. Whether your usual workouts involve roaming the city streets or exploring the countryside, experiencing the sights and sounds of the world around you is part of the joy of running, walking and cycling that makes the time fly by.

Thankfully, there are options available that do a surprisingly good job of simulating the effect of getting outdoors from the comfort and safety of your garage, lounge or kitchen. 

For runners, one of the best (and most affordable) options is the Zwift RunPod. This neat little device is a simple cadence sensor that attaches to your shoe, but it really comes to life when connected to the Zwift app, which gives you an avatar that matches your pace as you explore a variety of routes, interacting with other athletes from around the world as you go. 

It works best with a tablet propped on your treadmill (there's so much info, it can be tricky to take it all in on a smaller screen) but it's far more absorbing than you might expect, and really brings treadmill running to life.

Zwift RunPod app

Virtual running with Zwift

Prefer cycling? There are plenty of virtual options available to you, too. Again, Zwift is one of the best around provided you have a suitable trainer (there's an extensive guide to choosing the right one). 

Don't want to invest in any extra hardware? No worries – hundreds of YouTubers equipped with action cams have kindly published first-person footage of their runs and rides so you can enjoy the scenery while sweating at home. We particularly like Indoor Cycling Videos, which hosts beautifully recorded clips of various lengths with energizing music to keep you in the mood for riding.

Streamed workouts

The gym might be shut, but you can get a great workout at home led by a professional personal trainer – for free.

Fitness and nutrition coach Joe Wicks (aka The Body Coach) has become legendary for his daily PE With Joe workouts. The sessions are aimed primarily at kids while schools are closed, but they're a fun aerobic challenge for anyone. They're easy to follow, often themed, and Joe's enthusiasm is infectious.

Interested? We're embedding each day's video in this page, along with previous workouts so you can easily catch up with any you've missed. Alternatively, you can find them all on the Body Coach YouTube channel.

PE with Joe Wicks

PE with Joe

If you fancy something more intense, Saucony ambassador James Thie is hosting two circuit training sessions a week on YouTube, specifically designed to help runners improve their performance for later in the year. Check them out on the TeamThie YouTube channel.

There are also some excellent personal trainers sharing workout videos on Instagram. Starks Fitness is sharing bite-sized home workout videos every day, presented by the gym's personal trainers.

Missing your regular spinning session? The best known home alternative is Peloton, which usually hosts live classes with professional instructors pushing you to your limits in real time. It's recently had to suspend live sessions, but there's an enormous catalog of pre-recorded classes available at the touch of a finger.

Peloton's spinning classes require the company's special bike, but there are lots of other options if you can't make that kind of investment right now. The company's excellent workout app covers a range of other exercises, including some that use no equipment at all. 

Peloton app

Working out with the Peloton app

Looking for something different? There are so many fitness apps available for both Android and iOS, it can be hard to pick the right one, so we've rounded up our pick of the very best options from Google Play and the App Store.

Whether you're looking for an intense weight workout or some mellow yoga, all the apps in this list are led by professional teachers who will guide you through each movement and help make sure you're using proper (and safe) technique.

Some are video-based, while others rely on audio instructions so you can put down your phone or tablet and focus entirely on your body.

Asana Rebel

The Asana Rebel yoga app

Keep on track

It might seem like a strange time to buy a fitness tracker, but it can actually be a great motivation to keep moving, and avoid breaking the rules on outdoor exercise where you live.

Some countries have imposed a limit on how long you can spend outdoors, while others have restricted citizens' movement to within a certain distance of home. A fitness tracker will help in both cases. For example, if you're only allowed out for an hour, set a timer for 25 minutes before heading out, and you can be sure you'll have plenty of time to get back home again, even if you're a little tired on the return leg.

If you have to stay within a certain distance of home, a fitness tracker with built-in GPS (like the new Fitbit Charge 4) will let you plan a route that will keep you safely within the lines, and avoid always running or walking the same way. You might be surprised how many different courses are possible.

Fitbit Charge 4

Fitbit Charge 4

Even the most simple fitness tracker (even if it's little more than a pedometer) will give you an incentive to keep moving throughout the day. Building up your step count and active minutes is surprisingly rewarding, and will push you to spend more time on your feet than you would otherwise.

A moment for mindfulness

Close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. Naturally it's important to keep abreast of what's happening right now, with the situation changing by the hour, but the 24-hour news cycle is relentless and can leave you feeling worn out.

Thankfully, there's a great selection of apps and other tools available (both paid and free) to help you take some time to yourself and focus on your own wellbeing. One of our favorites is Calm – a meditation app that's hugely popular, and for good reason.

Although there's a premium tier available, most of its best features are available free, including introductions to meditation and guided breathing exercises.

If you feel like giving the premium features a try but don't want to commit, there's a seven-day free trial available to give you a feel for what's on offer. The Daily Calm is particularly nice – a daily focused meditation to get your day off to a more pleasant start.

Calm app

Using the Calm app

Many fitness trackers (such as Fitbits) also come with timed breathing exercises, and you can even set reminders to take a few moments for yourself throughout the day. It's a great way to avoid letting stress build up and make sure you're looking after yourself, even if you've never tried meditation or deep breathing before.

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