Best Workout for Stress and Anxiety

Best At-Home Workouts for Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus Quarantine

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Many people are doing what they can to help slow the spread of coronavirus through social distancing and staying indoors away from crowds as much as possible.

This has left many feeling lonely and fearful. 

Self-quarantine is particularly difficult for those who love to workout. It’s unwise to go to the gym at this time, and furthermore, many gyms have closed temporarily, canceling exercise classes altogether.

To help, RAVE Reviews asked trainers, nutrition coaches, and a number of other exercise experts all over the country for their recommendations on the best fitness homework for self-quarantine. It’s easier than you might think to stay on top of your fitness while also managing your stress and anxiety, all from the safety of your own home

For those who are unfamiliar with coronavirus and are curious about general symptoms and prevention, we’ve also included a helpful infographic below, provided by Hippocrates Lounge:

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Before telling you about the best home workout routine for stress relief, we want to tell you a bit about why exercise helps us feel better. We’ll also cover some alternative kinds of exercise that may be better suited for your body type and fitness level, keeping your options open.

No matter what kind of workout you choose, it’s important to blow off extra nervous energy during a self-quarantine, says certified functional strength and nutrition coach Jill Brown for Jill Brown Fitness

“The stress will only make you more susceptible to a virus by lowering your immune system,” Brown continues. She recommends two specific forms of exercise for a home workout:

Cardio 

A sustained bout of cardio will trigger the release of dopamine, beta-endorphin, and serotonin — the brain’s feel-good chemicals, Brown says. Certified personal trainer and group fitness trainer Lynn Montoya of Lynn Montoya Fitness agrees. “There’s nothing like aerobic exercise to improve your mood and relieve stress,” she says. 

Aerobic workouts can take many forms, all suitable for a self-quarantine. Montoya recommends interval training and completing at least three sets; use a timer for 40 seconds of high-intensity effort and 20 seconds of rest.

Weightlifting

Lifting heavy weights and completing a few truly challenging sets will also trigger the release of the brain’s euphoria chemicals, Brown continues. “Just be sure to use good form or a machine if you’re not confident with free weights,” she says.

Some of these same effects can be achieved using only your own body weight, which is sometimes the only option if you don’t already have your own weights or something like a home pull-up bar

Tim Liu, certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and Precision Nutrition certified coach, recommends the following routine as a great, bodyweight-only home workout:

  • A1. Squat x 15 reps
  • A2. Pushup x 10-15 reps
  • A3. Reverse Lunge x 12 reps each leg
  • A4. Side Plank x 30 seconds each side
  • A5. Front Plank x 30 seconds
  • A6. Bench Dips x 15-20 reps

Try A1-A5 back-to-back with no rest, Liu says, resting 30 to 60 seconds after each set is complete and performing three to four sets if possible. 

But what if you live in an apartment and need to be mindful of disturbing your neighbors? There are stress-relieving exercise options for you as well, according to NASM certified personal trainer and online fitness trainer Chardét Durbin for Corpao Fitness.

“Most trainers will tell you that the best workout for stress relief at home is some form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or cardio, but that’s not always the case,” she says, citing two primary reasons:

Jumping movements plus high impact

Since many people live in apartments, they can’t do explosive or jumping movements — particularly since many of their neighbors are working from home and won’t want to be disturbed, Durbin says.

Improper Form

Without proper instruction it’s very easy to incorrectly perform HIIT and cardio-type movements, especially at a fast pace, Durbin continues. This could result in injury or strain.

Instead, Durbin recommends Brazilian Flow or Barre, home workouts that combine strength, cardio, flexibility, and precision.

“Brazilian Flow combines the strength, cardio, and precise movements of Brazilian capoeira with the flexibility of yoga,” she says. “It’s also low impact, meaning it’s safe to do in apartments and for those with weak knees or backs.” Barre also combines all the elements of a good stress relief workout with minimal noise and impact, Durbin says.

If yoga is your preferred kind of exercise, consider a yoga app like Down Dog for a home workout.

“A few weeks ago we started getting tons of emails from all over the world [from] people using our app as they either can’t leave their homes or their yoga studios and gyms are closed,” says Stacey McFadin for the yoga app.

Bulldog Online is another online platform for home-based yoga workouts designed specifically for people who have never tried yoga or might not consider themselves a “yogi.”

Tessa Jenkins, class leader at Bulldog Online, says, “One of the best things about Bulldog Online is its inclusivity and community. Bulldog Online has a group of students following along with the flow, so it really feels like you’re right there taking the class. Also, the music drives the classes, which add such a fun element — from Beyoncé to Eminem and everything in between.”

Another app to consider is AND/life. With AND/life, “you can still work out in your own home,” says founder Andrea Marcellus. “Better yet, you can customize each workout to fit your preferences, including how much you want to sweat, what kind of equipment you’d like to use, how much spare time you have, and more.”

In addition to missed workouts, loneliness can also be a major issue for many in self-quarantine that don’t just go to the gym for exercise but also for the social atmosphere.

“If you’ve been going to a public gym and now feel nervous about it, see if any of the trainers you like offer personal online workouts,” Jill Brown says. Those who already have a relationship with a trainer already can consider doing workouts via live video on platforms like Facetime.

“This way you can talk about your feelings with someone who knows you, and they can adjust the workout accordingly based on your needs,” Brown says. 

Something a little less personal but closer to a face-to-face exercise environment could be web-based platforms like Revolution Motherhood, an on-demand platform developed by postnatal fitness expert Rachel Welch that caters to the unique fitness needs of mothers who have recently given birth. 

“Revolution Motherhood is a fitness method that teaches women how to understand their postnatal injuries and guides them in making a full recovery from pregnancy and childbirth — safely and lovingly,” says Emily Brimmer on behalf of the website. In response to the coronavirus crisis, Revolution Motherhood is offering a 30-day free trial of the platform, including all on-demand and daily live-streaming classes. 

As we’ve seen, an effective home workout during a coronavirus self-quarantine is possible. Up next, is our pick for the best home workout routine.

The best home workout for stress and anxiety during a coronavirus self-quarantine comes from Nicolle Harwood-Nash from The Workout Digest. Harwood-Nash is a personal fitness coach with 5,000 hours of one-on-one coaching. She is also a Certificate IV Complete Fitness and Master Trainer, holding a Certificate of Nutrition for Fitness.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping Jacks

“There’s nothing more convenient than an exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere, with no equipment,” says Harwood-Nash. That exercise is jumping jacks.

“All you need to perform jumping jacks is your body — perfect for home gyms, outdoor workouts, or a quick energy boost. Due to the high-energy nature and full-body movement required to perform jumping jacks, your muscles are targeted from head to toe, especially the most important muscle of all — your heart!” Harwood-Nash says.

“They are great for toning your body all over and have the added benefit of increasing your cardiovascular fitness at the same time,” she continues. “Jumping jacks can, therefore, be done on their own, or scattered throughout your workout to keep your overall heart rate high and invite maximum calorie burn.”

Beginner’s Push Workout

The Beginner’s Push Workout is a simple CrossFit-style workout with some easy scaling options.

“The push-ups for this exercise can be scaled to incline push-ups,” Harwood-Nashsays, “where the hands are elevated and you’re not lifting quite as much of your body weight. This is an easy way to build strength and progress toward full push-ups, hand-release push-ups, and a variety of upper-body push movements.”

Leg Pull-Ins

Leg pull-ins will primarily target your upper rectus abdominis muscles, Harwood-Nash says.

To perform the exercise, sit on your weight bench (or an adequate substitute), lean back, and lift your feet off of the ground. Keep your hands behind you in order to grab the bench for stability. With your feet out in front of you, bring your knees to your chest and then back outward. Lowering your legs so that your feet come close to the ground will conclude one repetition.

“Repeat this exercise for a total of 10 to 15 repetitions,” Harwood-Nash says.

Alternating Leg Lowers

Alternating leg lowers is a unilateral exercise, meaning you get to work one side at a time. “This is great for achieving balanced strength and coordination through both sides of your body. Alternating leg lowers target your lower abdominal region and external obliques as well as increases your spinal stability,” Harwood-Nash states.

To do this exercise, lie on your back and start with both legs up, knees bent at 90-degrees. Straighten your right leg, and lower it toward the ground, keeping your core engaged. Then bring it back up to starting position and repeat on the left side.

The amount of reps you do should be in accordance with your core strength, Harwood-Nash advises. “Aim to do 16 to 30 alternating reps. If you feel any lower-back strain during this exercise, you know you’re overdoing it.”

Plank

The plank is a well-known exercise, and for good reason. “It delivers many benefits if done correctly and regularly. This exercise works your whole mid-section as well as the rest of your body!” Harwood-Nash says.

To properly perform a plank and protect your lower back, maintain your spine’s neutral curvature when in the plank position. Prop yourself up on your elbows and toes, holding your body in a strong, static position for 30 to 60 seconds.

Medicine Ball Slams

“Next is the good old faithful ball slam, a full-body exercise will get your heart rate pumping and help you blow off steam,” Harwood-Nash says.

Here’s how to properly perform a “slam”:

  • Assume a shoulder-width stance with your feet, and have a slam ball between your hands.
  • Lift the ball up overhead, fully extending your arms and going onto your tiptoes.
  • Explosively slam the ball down onto the ground in front of you.

“As the ball does not bounce high enough for you to catch it in a standing position, your throw is preceded by a squat to catch the ball,” Harwood-Nash notes.

Once the ball is back between your hands, return to starting (standing) position with the ball overhead for your next throw.

The time between your slams should be minimal, and you should concentrate all your force into each slam.

Russian Twists

Russian twists are one of Harwood-Nash’s favorite core exercises. “I love the deep burn on the sides that this exercise creates. It’s going to get your heart pumping, too. Don’t wimp out with weight on your Russian twists — you’re not crunching the weight; you’re twisting the weight and can handle more than you think.” 

To perform a Russian Twist, sit on the ground with your ankles crossed. Then, lift your feet off the floor, keeping your back neutral. Start twisting through the core from left to right and then the alternate. “You will feel this exercise through the middle of your trunk, specifically deep in your sides,” Harwood-Nash says.

High Knees

The last exercise Harwood-Nash recommends trying from home are high knees, an intense cardio-dominant exercise that’s good for targeting a variety of muscles.

“The explosive push up of the legs encourages high-intensity training and a faster heart rate,” Harwood-Nash says. “The exercise itself is quite simple. As you complete the exercise, make sure to ensure that you keep your spine aligned. Start slowly, and build up the amount of time,” she suggests. 

Here’s how to properly perform high knees:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your arms by your sides and your feet facing forward.
  • Raise your left knee to your chest, bringing it as high as you can.
  • As you go, bring your arms up to follow the natural running motion.
  • Lightly touch back down on the ball of your feet
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Elliot Reimers

Elliot Reimers is a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (CNC) and M.S. candidate at Michigan State University, where he is studying Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology. He has been a freelance science writer since 2013, centering on the topics of nutritional science, dietary supplementation, fitness, and exercise physiology. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and is an inveterate “science nerd” who loves fitness. He is passionate about coaching and educating people about how to live healthier, be smarter about what they put in their bodies, and perform better. In his spare time, you’re most likely to find Elliot hoisting barbells, hiking the mountains of beautiful Colorado, or working on content for Simply Shredded.