• COVID-19 quarantine has lead to a more sedentary lifestyles and a big drop in reported number of steps per day.
  • It's important to break a sweat at least 10 minutes a day to keep your body flexible and healthy.
  • With just 10 minutes and the space of a yoga mat, you can do five exercises at home with no special equipment or training.

Video Transcript

JOHN WHYTE, MD, MPH: Hello. I'm Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Officer at WebMD, and welcome to Coronavirus in Context. Today, we're going to talk about exercise and what you need to be doing at home to stay active and maybe even protect yourself against coronavirus. My guest is Don Saladino. He's a fitness and wellness expert based in New York City. Don, thanks for joining me.

DON SALADINO: Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here. I appreciate it.

JOHN WHYTE: So with all of us staying in, not getting out, my number of steps has decreased dramatically. What do we need to be thinking about in terms of exercise and being active at home?

DON SALADINO: No, it's -- it's a great question. I mean, initially after the first week of us all being quarantined, um, you know, everyone was kind of searching off the web and just trying to grab any little exercise or program to -- to be active. But now that a few weeks have gone by, I think people are starting to realize that they need more routine, um, in their -- in their lifestyle.

And the first thing I tell people to do is that you got to break a sweat for 10 minutes a day. And even if you're a sedentary individual, because of the environment right now, because of, you know, the fact that we're all forced to be at home, we've got to carve out 10 minutes a day where we can just get up, move the joints around, get the heart rate up a little bit, and just allow fresh oxygen to kind of move throughout the body, which helps remove waste -- you know, which also, in turns, helps lubricate our joints and which is -- a, you know, allows us to recover and feel better. So, you know, it's imperative that we move every day.

JOHN WHYTE: What about immunity? Does exercise help us with some immunity? There's good data that show it might. What has your experience been?

DON SALADINO: Well first off, I think exercise can be -- exercise is a stress. And if we kind of overstay our welcome and we train too much, yeah, there is a chance that it could work against our immunity. But what we're asking people to do right now, which is breaking a sweat 10, 15, 20 minutes a day, yes. This is, again, going to help with circulation. It's going to help with blood flow. It's going to help with endorphins in the body. It's going to help lift our mood. And all of these things that I'm listing have been shown to help, um, improve our immunity.

JOHN WHYTE: And even with just 10 minutes a day?

DON SALADINO: 100%. I mean, it's again, we have to get off the couch. And I get a question every day, well, am I better off doing 30 minutes three times a week, or minimum 10 minutes a day? I'm talking about the bare minimum here. I just got off the phone with one of my clients who's close to 70 years old. And, you know, fortunately, the gentleman's in great shape and he's able to do pull-ups and he's able to move and do things a 20-year-old was able to do. And I think what happens in time is, as we age, we automatically make this an excuse to stop moving. And then as we stop moving, our body kind of, you know, loses the right to be able to do these specific movements that we were doing as children.

So the idea right now is to get up for a minimum of 10 minutes a day, get those joints moving, make sure there's fluid in the body, fluid in the joints, making sure that there's proper circulation going through the body, trying to move safely in as many different planes and patterns as possible, and just be active. I mean, at the bare minimum, that's what I'm telling people to do.

JOHN WHYTE: What about walking? Is walking good?

DON SALADINO: Walking is great. I mean, if you're looking at between walking and running, I mean, we're all at different fitness levels. And, you know, you might take a specific individual outside and have them, you know, walk at a brisk pace for 20 minutes, and their heart rate may get to 120 beats a minute. On the other hand, you could get someone who's, you know, used to running, and they could run at 120 beats a minute for 20 minutes.

So I think it all depends on your -- um, your conditioning, your current activity level, what your body can handle. And it's really less about going out there with this Rocky-type mentality, and I think it's more about going out into the real world right now. And our real world is our backyard, our home, maybe just being able to walk down the block and challenging ourselves a little bit, and trying to break a sweat, and trying to walk at a brisk pace, and, you know, allowing, you know, our bodies and our minds to feel good.

JOHN WHYTE: And it might just be an apartment that someone has, and that's why we wanted, uh, to talk to you and hear, what can everyone do in their own home? You mentioned that 70-year-old. I don't know if he's doing pull-ups at home. I don't know how, how to do it.

DON SALADINO: It's difficult. It is very difficult.

JOHN WHYTE: In, in the house. Um, but you're going to show us, one of the five exercises that basically anyone can do at home with no special equipment, no excuses allowed. Um, and then it might take -- as you said -- 10 to 15 minutes, and can break a sweat. So can, can you show --

DON SALADINO: I'm gonna give everyone -- yeah, perfect. I'm going to give everyone five movements right now that's going to take no more than 10 minutes. So what I'm going to do is, I'm going to move back to this mat. All we need is the amount of space that I have on this mat right here, OK? And listen, we're all going to be at different levels. And if you have to bring a chair into the equation for some balance like I could do right now, that's, you know, that's a great, great idea.

So the first thing I'm going to start with -- and we're going to keep the chair here just for safety, it's called an inverted hamstring. And the reason why I want to do this is one, we all need to work on our balance in life, OK? And we need to make sure that our hip is firing. Because the amount of sitting that we're doing right now, our glute and our hip tends to start to fall asleep. And with this area falling asleep, then from a joint-by-joint approach, the knee can take over for the job that does glute and the hip is responsible for, or the lower back. And that's why I find a lot of times our lower backs get sore.

Um, so what we're going to do, is we're just going to lean forward and we're gonna tap our hands, and we're going to stand back up. Really simple.

JOHN WHYTE: How many should we do?

DON SALADINO: We're going to do eight reps each side, and we're going to go for about two reps, so really simple. As we get better and better at it, we can now move our chair out of the way.

JOHN WHYTE: Yeah.

DON SALADINO: And then from there, it's just very simple, hinge, stand back up, touch down. So what we're going to do is, we're going to go for about 80 sides, we're going to switch legs, going to the other side. And I just love the balance and stability on your foot, into your ankle, into your knee, into your hip, and from a joint-by-joint approach, it travels up your entire body. You're going to feel a lot better, you're going to move a lot better. And you're going to find that two sets of 80 sides is going to get your heart rate up, OK?

JOHN WHYTE: Start off slow for those of the -- for those of us who have been sitting a while.

DON SALADINO: 100%. So, I mean, what I would recommend -- and that's why I like bringing the chair into the equation because very simply, we're just going to kind of dive forward and stand back up. Look what I'm doing right here. I'm just putting my hand straight down and I'm touching my hands down on the back of this chair, and this is a very simple drill. I -- I have my parents in their early 70s working on this drill right now. So a lot of benefit to that drill.

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

DON SALADINO: The next thing I'd like to show is I'd like to get everyone down on the mat, OK? And this is a drill called the glute bridge. And what I love about the glute bridge, again, we're targeting the glutes right now, and we're trying to, um, bring some life back into this area. Most of our glutes are inhibited, so what I'd like you to do is lay flat on your back, arms across your chest, and if you have a difficult time stabilizing this position, you can put your arms flap down on the floor. And we're gonna drive our hips down, and then drive our hips back up to the ceiling. And we're going to perform 10 reps, at each rep I'm trying to tense and squeeze my glutes as hard as possible.

JOHN WHYTE: So we strive for 10, but you'd settle for five.

DON SALADINO: These get a bit -- you know, and you know what? And this is -- and that's an amazing question, because what ends up happening is even when I'm, when I'm designing programs is that we like to put a number. And that number, for me, is a range. And if you're not getting 10, or if you're not getting five, that's fine. If you can only perform three, that's great. Just write that down on a piece of paper, understand that you were able to perform two sets of three today, and the next session, try and get four. And just try and show a little bit of improvement. So it's not about going in there with that Rocky-type mentality and putting your foot on the gas, it's about being consistent, coming back day in and day out, putting in your best effort.

Because we're not going to get stronger every day. We're not going to improve every day. It's physically impossible, see, if you understand that.

JOHN WHYTE: All right. We do now.

DON SALADINO: Best exercise, number two. So now we're going to go to something called an open book. We're going to stay down on the ground. So so far, we worked on our balance, we worked on our hips and our glutes between the standing, um, um, inverted hamstring, and the glute bridge. And then we're going to lay onto our side, and we're going to go to an exercise called an open book. I'm going to show this from both sides.

This is working on thoracic rotation. So what we're doing now is we're just stacking our knees very comfortably, and I'm going to turn around and I'm going to reach out to the side. My, my goal -- and I'll show you from the other side -- my goal is to get my arm flat to the floor, which is very normal. If we can't, if we -- if we're elevated to here and that's our range of motion right now, I'm going to try and relax and breathe and just relax into the stretch and open up.

And what this is doing right here, is this is working on thoracic rotation, the ability to rotate that thoracic spine. It's working on separation between the upper and the lower half, and just the breathing component. I never want anyone going into the stretch with tension. I don't want you forcing the rep. I want you breathing into your ribs, breathing into your belly, and just trying to really relax that nervous system and open up, which is also tied into mobility in the pecs, in the shoulder. It's really, it's really a tremendous upper body, it's really a tremendous upper body stretch.

JOHN WHYTE: And if you have pain you stop, during the exercise.

DON SALADINO: At any point, if you feel any sharp pain, I would always recommend you contact your orthopedist, or if there's a specific physical therapist that you're comfortable with, or, or you work with, reach out to them. Never push through pain. Um, it's the worst thing for you to do. JOHN WHYTE: What are those remaining exercises? DON SALADINO: OK, we're going to show you an exercise now, this is for thoracic extension. This is called a cat-cow, or cat-dog. So I'm going to get onto all fours right now and what we're going to do is we're going to arch our back to the ceiling, and we're going to push away, chin to our chest. And what I'm going to do is like mentally try and arch from the low back, mid back, upper back, head to the ceiling, and then pushing forward, and then rounding forward, all right?

And what I love about this movement is because of the amount of time that we have to sit, it's always forcing us. Sitting is one of the worst things that we can be doing in life. It's forcing us into this kyphotic position, so not only are our glutes like -- I like to say going to sleep, but our, our upper backs are, are becoming very kyphotic and rounding forward. So what this is doing right now, it's forcing us to have to stretch that mid-back area -- that thoracic spine -- into extension. Not your lower back, but your mid to upper back. So just turning around and going through 10 simple reps of this cat and cow, or you can call it cat and dog, is tremendous for your, for your spine.

JOHN WHYTE: All right. Any more?

DON SALADINO: Yes. OK, the last one I want to go into right now, I actually have two more for you if you guys don't mind, OK? And these are very simple. We're going to go into a simple hip circle, because we're already on all fours. We're going to get that hip rotating in a circular pattern. So I want you to think about keeping your lower back flat, not allowing your body to open up. And we're going to go roughly three to five in a counterclockwise direction. And then three to 5 in a clockwise direction. Very simple. And we're going to switch sides, three to five on both sides.

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

DON SALADINO: OK? Really easy. The last one I'm going to do is, I want to bring everyone off the mat again. And this is a little bit of a sweetener. This is called a T-Y-L-M-W, and this requires absolutely no weight. Even for someone like myself, who, I enjoy training with weights, I can do this exercise with a pair of soup cans, and they work really well.

So a standing T is going to be here, so showing you from a profile, my, my spine is flat. We're going to raise out to the side in a very controlled fashion with my thumbs up, so we're going to go roughly 10 reps.

JOHN WHYTE: OK.

DON SALADINO: We're going to go into a Y, which now, if I come dead-on here, we just went out to the side from the T. The Y is going to look like we're almost doing a standing Y, a Y. OK? We're going to go 10 reps here. We're going to go into our L, is a row. Rotate, and then our last row, we're going to do is a W to close out the whole workout. So thumbs out to the side, elbows touching, thumbs up, elbows out to the side.

JOHN WHYTE: Did you --

DON SALADINO: And we're going to roughly 10 rounds.

JOHN WHYTE: Did you break a sweat, Don?

DON SALADINO: You know what? What's interesting about this is, yes. I'm, I'm talking, but as I'm going through this stuff, I feel my body unlocking. What I like to refer -- I mean, the best example I like to give people is, if I'm dropping a boat motor into the water. If we sit for too much, and we don't move and we're inactive, it's like leaving that boat engine in the water without running it. And barnacles are going to grow on it, and then moss is going to grow on the bottom of the hull. And then when you try and run it a days, few months later, it's not going to run efficiently.

But if we get on that boat maybe once a day, or once every day we run it for five minutes, it's never going to develop all that moss, all that crud on the bottom of the boat, or on the engine, and the boat's going to move smoothly. So this is the best example with the human body. We have to go out and we have to kind of chop those barnacles off our joints, and we've got to get our bodies moving. It's just for 10 minutes a day. That's all I'm telling people at the bare minimum. If they want to do more, let's get after it. JOHN WHYTE: Absolutely. So five exercises, even if we do a few and, and work up to that. I want to thank you, Don, for, for taking the time. DON SALADINO: Thank you.

JOHN WHYTE: And, and being a good sport, and, and demonstrating them for us.

DON SALADINO: I appreciate it. Thanks, John.

JOHN WHYTE: And thank you for watching Coronavirus in Context. I'm Dr. John Whyte.