Workout from home: 12 products to help you stay active during self isolation

Gyms and fitness centers are closed, but your living room is always open.

Photo by Zen Bear Yoga on Unsplash
  • Global lockdowns and business closures due to the coronavirus outbreak have left many searching for alternative ways to exercise.
  • Beyond physical fitness, studies have shown that exercising also enhances creativity, relieves depression, and is overall great for the brain.
  • These products will help you establish a personal workout center in your home and hopefully make self-isolation a little more bearable.


        If you're a good person, then you're probably doing your part to help flatten the curve and beat COVID-19 by staying inside as much as possible. Unfortunately, that means that parts of many people's daily routines have been interrupted, including visits to the local gym or fitness studio. Being active at all ages is, of course, important for physical reasons (ensuring that muscles don't deteriorate, lowering risk of cardiovascular diseases and conditions, etc.). Studies have also shown that exercising can enhance creativity, relieve depression, and is overall great for the brain.

        Just because you're stuck at home doesn't mean that you have to give up that part of your life. Mayors and governors across the United States have encouraged occasional walks when necessary (as long as they practice CDC social distancing guidelines), and a lot of people have taken this time to establish workout centers inside of their homes. Here are a few essentials you should order today to start burning calories and improve your mood between binge watches.

        Bring the outside indoors with all-natural incense

        It's no secret that certain scents and fragrances have strong physiological effects on our moods and behaviors. Juniper Ridge creates campfire incense by extracting fragrances directly from nature. The calming forest scents are perfect whether you're practicing yoga, meditating, or just sitting and doing nothing at home. If burning incense isn't your thing, they also offer oils and plant-based room sprays.

        This 7-piece yoga set will have you centered in no time (and yes, it comes in other colors)

        Thanks to coronavirus, many yoga instructors have had to pivot to digital classes. Not having to travel to a studio can be a plus, but you may need a couple things to get the most of those remote session. This yoga starter kit has a mat, two blocks, a mat towel, a hand towel, a strap, and a knee pad.

        A smarter scale for a smarter workout

        Every home gym needs a machine for tracking those gains and losses. More than just a weight scale, the Fitbit Aria 2 connects to a mobile app so that you can measure and keep track of your body fat percentage, lean mass, and your body mass index (BMI). Being healthy is about more than losing or gaining pounds, so you'll need a scale that helps you see the bigger picture.

        Join the resistance

        Resistance band workouts are perfect for small spaces and for people who don't want to deal with storing cumbersome equipment. Color-coded based on resistance level, these natural latex bands come with a workout guide ebook, lifetime warranty, and a travel/storage pouch.

        Get a few pushups in wherever you are

        If you have a bedroom, hallway, or kitchen floor, then you probably have enough space to do a pushup. The old-fashioned way doesn't require any additional equipment, but these were designed with a wrist-twisting motion that is said to engage more muscles and increase strength/definition while also reducing joint strain and pressure points.

        Strengthen your core on any floor

        It only takes one go on an ab roller for you to realize that it is definitely working. Your midsection will hate you, but it will be worth it in the end when you leave self isolation with a stronger core (and maybe even a six pack).

        Put some spring in your step with this indoor trampoline

        Indoor trampolines provide a quieter way to jump around and get your heart rate going while toning and strengthen your leg muscles. The edges can also be used for stability during floor exercises, and it folds flat for easy storage. The kids may also get some enjoyment out of this (but make sure you check the terms for any age restrictions).

        This balance trainer is a great universal tool to have

        There are dozens of in-home workouts you can do with an inflatable balance trainer like this one, including pushups, lunges, squats, sit-ups, toe taps, and burpees. This pack comes with a downloadable set of workouts to get you started.

        Rubber kettlebells are better for your floors

        Hardcore kettlebell fans will probably recommend cast iron because it's the original "real deal," but kettlebells made of rubber or ones that are vinyl coated are much safer for your floors in case of a drop.

        Get a medicine ball with some added grip

        You probably won't be slamming this ball too hard against a wall in your apartment, but there are other solo and partner exercises where having a medicine ball on hand would be a good idea. Whether you're doing ball tosses or Russian twists, you won't lose your grip thanks to this smart design.

        Jump back on your bike and ride

        You may not be able to hit the trails and bike lanes as much as you used to, but that doesn't mean you can't still get a few miles in before dinner. Indoor bike trainers are good for the winter and, as it turns out, for extended periods of self-isolation.

        A big ticket item worth the splurge

        Taking the indoor cycling thing a step further, this machine from Nordictrack is not your mother's old exercise bike. The S22i Studio Cycle allows riders to choose custom routes via Google Maps, join virtual classes, or ride along scenic destination trails with a guide. The trainer controls the incline of your bike (inclines up to 20 percent and declines to 10 percent, with 24 resistance levels), or you can bypass the settings to make the ride more comfortable for you. The 22" HD touchscreen is your window to the outside world and also displays your progress and estimated stats (calories burned, workout duration, etc.). How else could you ride the roads of Norway or through the French Alps without leaving your home?

        When you buy something through a link in this article Big Think earns a small affiliate commission. Thank you for supporting our team's work.

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        New research establishes an unexpected connection.

        Reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulate in the gut of sleep-deprived fruit flies, one (left), seven (center) and ten (right) days without sleep.

        Image source: Vaccaro et al, 2020/Harvard Medical School
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        • When the buildup is neutralized, a normal lifespan is restored.

        We don't have to tell you what it feels like when you don't get enough sleep. A night or two of that can be miserable; long-term sleeplessness is out-and-out debilitating. Though we know from personal experience that we need sleep — our cognitive, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functioning depend on it — a lack of it does more than just make you feel like you want to die. It can actually kill you, according to study of rats published in 1989. But why?

        A new study answers that question, and in an unexpected way. It appears that the sleeplessness/death connection has nothing to do with the brain or nervous system as many have assumed — it happens in your gut. Equally amazing, the study's authors were able to reverse the ill effects with antioxidants.

        The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.

        An unexpected culprit

        The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.

        What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.

        "We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.

        "Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)

        fly with thought bubble that says "What? I'm awake!"

        Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think

        The experiments

        The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.

        You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.

        For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.

        Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.

        The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.

        However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."

        The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.

        As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.

        The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."

        The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.

        "We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.

        Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."

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