Stair climbing and live webinars: how people are getting creative with their exercise in self-isolation

As we all stay at home, it's also important for us to stay fit

Climb the stairs for 10 minutes in a day to get your step count up. Getty Images
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Two days ago, Dubai Marina resident Mo Loch climbed 82 flights of stairs in his building.

It's just one of the ways he's trying to keep fit, although the next day he spotted a sign asking tenants to refrain from using the stairwell for personal exercise. "These stairways are for emergency use only," the notice read. "Please continue to exercise within your apartments."

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, gyms and fitness facilities have closed and UAE residents are now only allowed on to the streets when going to buy food and medical items, or for essential work.

It's perhaps no surprise then, as more communities begin to practise social distancing, that Fitbit researchers last week recorded a significant decline in average step count compared to the same time last year across the globe.

While the decline in steps people take every day – which we're often told should be about 10,000 o stay healthy – varied from country to country, the most dramatic change happened across Europe, with a reported 7 to 38 per cent decline in step counts during the week ending Sunday, March 22. The US saw a 12 per cent decline.

So, we're all having to find increasingly creative ways to get or stay fit, especially when public areas in our buildings are also off-limits.

"I love group exercises," says Loch, 38, an events and marketing intelligence specialist who lives in Torch Tower. "I've downloaded Shaun T's Insanity workout, which came out years ago, but I'd forgotten about it until now. I love doing stuff like F45 and Circuit Factory, so, because T's programme has a group of people on TV, I feel like I'm in a group class."

Gyms and fitness instructors across the UAE and the world have been releasing free and paid-for workouts for their members over the internet in a bid to maintain their client base and income, as well as offer people a new way to stay healthy.

One of the most famous of these is Joe Wicks, AKA The Body Coach, who's basically become the world's PE teacher amid school closures. More than 2.8 million people across the world took part in the fitness star's first daily online lesson, which lasts 30 minutes and follows the star's usual HIIT format, with a warm-up, body weight and cardio movements, and a cool down.

Thankfully, all of this can be done without any gym equipment, something not many of us have access to nor can afford to buy. So, more and more, we're turning to programmes like these in order to maintain fitness levels.

"I am doing a lot of resistance exercises using my own body weight and dumbbells," says Jumeirah Heights resident Nader Aladham, 34. Although the project manager admits he's doing fewer workouts than usual, he's been "amazed" by the variety of exercises he can do with so little equipment. "I'm finding the HIIT workouts on YouTube are great. Many of my gym instructors are starting to go live on Instagram as well."

The good thing about this is learning to restructure your life. You realise how many distractions you have in your world

There's quite a difference between doing a recorded programme and doing a live workout with friends, adds Loch. "People are getting a big following, because you feel as though you're part of a community. It's not about 'oh, I need someone to do yoga with', but that you're still in touch with friends and a group.

"In my opinion, when it comes to the live stuff, it's about being part of a community. It's a way of interacting."

Loch admits he sometimes skips workouts because he's too busy in the office, but now that he's at home he's finding he's more motivated than ever. "I'm also cooking more. The good thing about this is learning to restructure your life," he says. "You realise how many distractions you have in your world.

"Hopefully, when it's all over, rather than going back to normal, we can actually take something out of this."