5 Ways to Stay Healthy When You Can’t Workout

No time or energy to hit the gym? No problem.

By Megan Falk
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While coffee lovers fall into a slump after giving up their daily caffeine fix, active individuals and fitness junkies may feel antsy after going a few days without a sweat session. Whether an injury, surgery, or hectic work week has made it impossible to hit the gym, skipping a few workouts can have a remarkable effect on the body: in two weeks, muscle power begins to decrease and blood pressure rises, according to Mark Peterson, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. But don’t worry about losing muscle or endurance — make the most of your rest days and maintain your physical and mental health with these simple tips.

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Modify Your Routine

With a few simple changes to your usual workout practice, you’ll still be able to build strength without aggravating your injury. Instead of doing weighted squats or mile-long runs while you’re healing from a knee injury, test out seated bodyweight exercises like front leg stretch kicks, elbow-to-knee twists, and sitting jacks to get your blood pumping. With ankle or foot injuries, complete an at-home core workout or strengthen your upper body with modified diamond push-ups and resistance band bicep curls.

Watch: No Excuse: Knee Injury

Maintain a Nutritious Diet

After undergoing a painful surgery, your first reaction may be to dive into carb-heavy foods for comfort. But without accomplishing your usual physical activity, these high-calorie dishes may hurt your health. Talk to your doctor about how many calories you should consume while recovering, and don’t forgo protein — incorporating the macronutrient, along with vitamin C and zinc, into your diet will keep your immune system strong and aid in wound healing, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Additionally, swap those satisfying sweets for healthy alternatives; if you had oral surgery, trade in the sugary, pain-numbing ice cream for a chilled açaí bowl or cup of Greek yogurt topped with honey and cinnamon.

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Set Your Health Goals

If you’re recovering at home, break out a new journal, take stock of your current health state, and start mapping out your physical and mental goals. Then, devise a plan to accomplish them and decide how you’ll measure your success. If you’re intent on running a six-minute mile in three months’ time, work up to that goal by setting target paces for each of your jogs, gradually increasing them over time. Already met your fitness goals for the year? Try researching new exercises and deciding how to incorporate them into your routine once you’re back in the gym, or consider practicing soothing activities like meditation or yoga to relieve stress or anxiety.

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Take a Social Media Break

Though social media offers an abundance of fitspiration and #healthgoals, your recuperation period is the perfect opportunity to step away from the screen. If your break from the gym is creating anxiety about losing your health progress, seeing fitness bloggers boast their accomplishments online may fuel the fire. In a 2012 study, researchers found that college students who spent more time on Facebook reported having lower self-esteem than those who spent less time, so a pause from your newsfeed may do your mental health some good.

WatchHow Social Media Can Make You Feel Left Out

Walk Everywhere

Living in a booming city may come with the perk of public transportation, but while you’re on a gym hiatus, try walking to your destinations instead of using the subway. Walking at a moderate pace for half an hour can help you burn an average of 150 calories, and to ramp up the intensity, work in some walking lunges or lateral band walks. If your city is too expansive to easily walk to restaurants or the grocery store, a stroll around the neighborhood will do the trick.

More: How to Walk Off Your Weight

Article written by Megan Falk