Sedentary Behavior, Home Workouts, and Mental Boosts During Lockdown

Photo credit: Allan Swart

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Many individuals are being hit with a shockwave of activity adjustment due to the current pandemic. Companies, schools, and gyms have closed. George R.R. Martin is writing again. We as people are being forced to slow down. Some are slowing due to illness. The rest of us are doing what we can to avoid illness and respond to the changes in our lives.

I’m a Seasoned Expert In This Lifestyle

There are also those for whom this time is not that different. They already spend a lot of time indoors or homebound and don’t move through the outside (or inside) world very much. This traditionally leads to a sedentary lifestyle mostly defined by steps.

I’m a writer, reader, musician, and an obsessive business owner. While I love the outdoors and training, my lifestyle doesn’t involve a lot of natural movement. Training on its own doesn’t provide an extreme amount of caloric burn for the entirety of my day. Part of the reason I became a figure in the diet and health industry is because of monitoring people’s activity outside of training. The data I collected from people’s daily lifestyle habits and patterns (myself included) gave me a rude awakening. I am an individual who, if I don’t make (what I consider) great effort, can hit a mere 3000 steps in a day. Those steps for me include general household duties, cooking, and hitting a lifting session.

For years I’ve worked on my sedentary behavior with myself and my clients. The following is advice and tips on how to implement these ideas into your daily life.

Note: This advice helps beyond this odd period in our history. If you’re not finding this quarantine that different (activity-wise), you might want to pay attention to these tips in general, not just during lockdown.

First, a Minute Primer On Total Daily Energy Expenditure

Our daily caloric burn is made up of various factors. Every day you expend a certain amount of energy in the following ways:

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – Amount of energy for essential body functions

Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF) – Amount of energy to digest food

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – Mostly subconscious activity expenditure (fidgeting, pacing)

Non-Exercise Physical Activity (NEPA) – Mostly conscious activity expenditure (walking, shopping, low grade)

Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA) – Formal or structured exercise

Every day you land in one of the following categories:

Deficit – Less intake of energy than required

Maintenance – Matched intake of energy required

Surplus – Excess intake of energy required

Everything from training to subconscious decisions determines our daily energy need. Essentially, this means people who are staying at home will likely see a decrease in NEAT, NEPA, and TEA.

Back To Increasing Activity At Home

It’s reasonable to assume people who loved to train prior to this will do what they can to continue training. In my industry, home workouts are popping up left and right to answer the call for those who are missing their gym. However, social distancing or isolation could lead some individuals to experience an increase in depression, apathy, or loneliness. Even if you were an individual who normally trains, you may miss the energy of the gym or simply feel troubled by the events unfolding outside your door. An important thing to keep in mind is maintaining some semblance of your routine takes effort and what might feel to you like excessive effort. That is not abnormal. Don’t feel bad about yourself if you find this a struggle.  

1. Set Daily Step Goals

Be specific. Be purposeful. Be realistic. It’s better to hit a moderate amount of steps than to be overwhelmed by an unrealistic daily goal.

2. Set New Training Goals

Consider taking this time to work on increasing your endurance in walking or running. You don’t have to run or even jog. Select specific goals like “walk two miles.”

3. Increase Low-Grade Activity Where You Can

Pace or jog in place during phone calls or streaming shows. Low-grade steps and movement are easiest when mindful effort is decreased. You can get in a full day’s steps watching Tiger King alone. But seriously, did Carole kill Don?

4. Use Cleaning for Activity Expenditure

Take part in detailed cleaning and organization operations in your home. If for nothing else to increase caloric burn in your day. Visit every room of the house. Dust, tidy, or store something in each one. This is the time to tackle projects you’ve been procrastinating.

5. Set Stair Goals

If you have stairs in or near your home, set a daily stair climb goal. Ex. 20, 40, 60, or 100 stairs.

6. Put Your Home Equipment to Use

If you have home equipment, use it. Create a desktop treadmill or ride your stationary bike while Netflixing. Make it happen and make it easy.

7. Use Follow-Along Workouts

Use work-along videos to help keep you motivated. Check the resource section below for plenty of ideas and options.

8. Get Outdoors

You can still go for walks, hikes, and exploration. Just do so mindfully and safely.

Staying Connected to Your Goals and the Outside World

Humans are highly adaptable, which means they can get sucked into a non-productive lull, and time passes before you know it. Any seasoned entrepreneur can tell you the hardest part of running your own business is the proactive behavior one must spark daily. If you’ve never been one to take downtime, then ignore this and enjoy resting. Not everything has to be about your new side hustle. However, if you want this to be a time of productivity, and you’re finding yourself encountering the complications of this lifestyle, here are a few tips to help.

1. Set Daily Physical Activity Goals

As mentioned above, select specific and purposeful activity goals. Instead of saying, “I will go for a walk today.” Try to say instead, “I will hit 5,000 steps today.”

2. Set Daily Social Activity Goals

You can still be social while keeping physical distance. Make calls to loved ones, enjoy streaming movie nights, and use Facebook and Instagram for something other than arguing with people. Reach out to people verbally or in writing, even if you can’t physically.

3. Set Improvement Goals

These goals would include house, education, or health improvement. You can take part in online courses, perhaps finally finishing that writing project or fixing things around your house. Take this time to improve various aspects of your life.

4. Create A Routine and Plan Versus It Just “Happening”

It’s easy for the hours to blur and to spend the whole day working or doing nothing. Take the time to plan your day from beginning to end. Plan leisure time. Plan work time. Don’t let your day just happen to you.

5. Get Properly Dressed and Ready for the Day

It may seem trite, but you should execute your day as if you have somewhere to go and things to do. Make your bed. Change out of your pajamas. Don’t slack on the normal things you do. It keeps you on a good schedule.

Relevant Quick Q&A

Will I lose all my muscle not hitting the gym as hard as I normally do?

Bed rest, chronic illness, or microgravity are still the highest predictors of significant muscle atrophy. In other words, not moving at all or very little is where we see significant atrophy. The other factor is excessive movement with less than adequate nutritional intake for said movement, specifically protein. If an individual is taking part in a challenging overload program, that should stave off overt atrophy and diminishing strength.

A more specialized (and rare) advanced athlete would be the most probable individual to see noticeable effects, but still reversible. This is directed to those who don’t have private or home gym access. This also doesn’t apply to the average advanced trainee.

You can also create a specific “deload” period for the longtail position on your strength or mass gains. There is also supporting evidence for myonuclei preservation in humans and rats during non-training times, though harder to recruit for the elderly. It certainly doesn’t need to spark fear of the atrophy boogyman.

Despite some forecasts, and whether this is good news or bad news for the health of many in our population, gyms will likely go back to their normal hours by June or earlier in most countries. Most individuals will not see more than 12 weeks of at-home training sessions if they don’t want to and have access and the financial means to return to the gym after all this is over. The last part of that statement is not intended to be a dramatic one.

Would this be a bad time to be in a deficit, health-wise?

Literature has shown a connection between deficiency and illness. If you are an individual at higher risk for complications for illness and infections, you should (in general) employ a more moderate approach to deficits, electing to do it slowly and steadily, with breaks.

There is also the weight of the psychological issues individuals are facing right now, and food (in moderate and energy balanced amounts) is a source of comfort and provides anxiety-reducing benefits. (Note: Little tongue-in-cheek study.)

This is not to say that if you’re in a deficit right now, you’re going to get sick. Many health conditions are helped by losing body fat. Consult your physician or RD about the effects and pace of fat loss regarding your health condition. In general, eating a high nutrient and varied diet while taking part in more moderate deficits prove to be logical for most.

Is it safe to buy food and shop at all right now?

We need food and we source it publically. If you’re concerned, here is a great video about how to create “safe-zones” and shopping and cooking as mindfully as possible.

You really expect me to do cheesy follow-along videos?

Nothing cheesy about improving your circulation and overall quality of life. Unless you’re doing it while carrying cheese.

If you have more questions, feel free to drop them to me via FB or email.

Things You Can Use Around The House

Books – Weights

Plastic Lids – Sliders (on carpet)

Brooms (check this out too) – Working your back

Rice – Grip or Carry

Paint Cans – I challenge people to upload their Paint Can routines. Missing hole in the home exercise world on YouTube and Instagram. #paintcanchallenge


All resources are free from affiliate income. Alphabetical order by sections.

Strength Workouts


Intermediate/Advanced: Individuals who are experienced with training and have already been training for some time at a gym.

Requires no or minimal equipment

Quickie: Tony Gentilcore & Justin Kompf – At Home Workout With A Towel

Jen Comas – Free Bodyweight Workouts
Meghan Callaway Fitness – Train From Home
Muscle Evo – The Lockdown Workout

Requires equipment (variety of weights and/or bench, etc)

Quickie: Ryan Hadley – Freestyle Kettlebell Juggling

Lee Boyce – The Bodyweight Workout for Big Guys
Strength In Science – At Home Workouts
Stronger By Science – Make Gains Without a Gym


Beginner/Easy: Individuals who have little experience with formal structured periodized training programs or who have taken significant time off from training and are starting back.

Requires no or minimal equipment

Quickie: Jenni Rawlings – “Yoga Butt”

FitNChips – Abs On Fire 12 Week Workout Program
Girls Gone Strong – 15 Bodyweight Workouts
Karina Inkster – Bodyweight Circuit
Marianne Kane – She’s been providing home workouts for years.

Requires equipment (variety of weights or suspension trainer)

Naab-Levy Fitness – 30-min Total Body Workout w/ Dumbbells
*Join Nikki’s Workout At Home Free Challenge
Nia Shanks – Suspension Trainer Program (8-Weeks)
*Check out Nia’s At-Home Workout Guide with two more free programs.


Girls Gone Strong – At-Home Workout Resources
This eight-page PDF from GGS has training for bodyweight, dumbbells, and strength gains. Workouts/programs are for all levels of training including pregnant and postpartum women.

Karina Inkster – Vault of Home Workouts
Katrina has put together workouts for bodyweight, dumbbells, resistance bands, and suspension trainers. Workouts/programs are for all levels of training including people new to training.

Low-Grade Activity/Cardio Workouts

Streaming Apps – Note: most streaming services have a Health & Wellness section with tons of free apps with myriad workouts.

Yoga For Complete Beginner
Total Body Flow Beginner
Beginner Strength and Balance

5 Minute Walk
2 Mile Walk
3 Mile Walk

Low Impact Workout Beginner
Low Impact Working Beginner/Intermediate
Low Impact Dance Groove Workout

Social Technology

Google Hangouts


Live Animal Cams
Open Culture

Self Improvement

Online Classes

Mental Health