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Making the most of physical isolation

Let’s face it: the thought of a few weeks staying at home would, until recently, have been music to ears of the many Australians used to the usual 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working week.

Then along came COVID-19.

And instead of choosing to stay at home, we were told we had to – or risk contracting this highly transmissible virus.

Evidence shows (thankfully) that physical isolation measures do work, even though we are far from overcoming the virus yet.

Bunkering down like this, however, particularly for an unknown length of time, can lead many of us to become bored and frustrated or even anxious and scared.

Thankfully, there are lots of things to do help ensure this does not happen. Here are just a few.

Inside ideas

  • Learn a language
  • Read a magazine
  • Get lost in a new podcast
  • Check out abandoned tourist spots on live webcam. Usually, you’d have to wade through crowds upon crowds to get within even queuing distance of the Doge’s Palace in Venice or Prague’s Old Town Square. But with curfews and lockdown measures being enforced throughout Europe, things are looking very different now.
  • Watch (or read) every single one of Shakespeare’s plays.
  • Do a digital yoga class. You might not be able to visit your regular yoga studio, but physical distancing guidelines can’t keep a good class down. Plenty of yoga studios are now live-streaming classes so you can still practice with your favourite teacher – calming music, guided shavasana and all.
  • Tour the USA’s greatest national parks. One silver lining of living through a pandemic in the age of the internet is that, though you may be self-isolating, you can still (sort of) get that much-needed dose of the great outdoors. Thanks to Google Earth, you can now virtually tour 31 of the USA’s greatest national parks, from the Virgin Islands to Mount Rainier in Washington State.
  • Catch up on all the Oscar winning movies you missed. You know those films you’ve been meaning to watch for years? The iconic ones you kinda pretend you’ve seen, the really long Oscar-worthy ones, the difficult watches you were never quite in the mood for? Now’s the time to get watching.
  • Sit in on an orchestra playing symphonies. Major arts institutions have shut down all over the globe, but the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra have come up with an innovative way to ensure everyone can still access live(ish) arts, live-streaming all their physically cancelled performances for free online.
  • Watch penguins, elephants and belugas live from the zoo. Many are streaming real-time feeds of their most popular attractions. From baboons to beluga whales, here are six incredibly soothing live-streams from zoos and aquariums around the world.

Outside ideas

Moving about whilst at home:

  • Catch up on gardening
  • If you’re lucky enough to have an exercise bike or swimming pool, use them!
  • Develop your own short exercise routine that suits your level of fitness.
  • Use YouTube to find a home workout that best suits your fitness needs and health status
  • Declutter and give away items to charity
  • Paint a room or restore a tired piece of furniture
  • Get the rusty bike(s) from the shed and restore them
  • Brush up on your golf-putting skills
  • Indoor bowls (if you have room)
  • If you can access an activity tracker, watch your steps. Aim for 10,000 a day and maybe introduce a challenge with friends and family members (most steps/active minutes).

Building your strength

Muscle strengthening exercises are recommended on at least two days each week. Try these:

  • Water bottle weight workout – fill a water bottle, milk carton or similar with water and do some light weights with it
  • Do some resistance exercises against a wall or chair
  • Follow a simple program of yoga, step-ups using a makeshift step, modified push-ups or sit-ups, lifting weights, lunges, calf raises and half squats
  • Sit less
  • Avoid sitting for long periods; break it up by moving about the house
  • Stand, or walk around the house as you talk on the phone
  • Set timers/reminders to get up and move
  • Do some exercises (push-ups, sit-ups or half-squats) in the TV ad breaks
  • Try standing for activities for which you may usually sit (TV, folding washing, phone calls)

What about the kids?

Children aged 5 to 17 need a minimum of one hour a day of moderate physical activity and more is better. Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Go outside and invent some lawn games, or just play catch or against a wall
  • Try something new, like hula hoops or juggling
  • Play the kids’ favourite music and see how many ‘cool’ moves you can do together.
  • Backyard cricket (even in the tiniest space you can make your own rules)
  • Dust off the Twister game or Wii Sports
  • Use a tennis ball to knock over plastic bottles filled with water (have a family competition)
  • For strengthening muscles and bones, try skipping, yoga, jumping, push-ups, sit-ups, lifting weights, lunges and squats
  • Build a cubby house together – even a makeshift one using re-purposed materials from around the house and yard
  • Get them helping with the gardening or housework

Keeping the children entertained

Even with children back at school, many children are spending significantly more time at home, and due to closures are not taking part in out-of-school activities.

Here are some ideas on how to help your child cope with periods of physical distancing or isolation.

Set a daily routine. Routines can help children cope with change and help them understand what is expected of them. Work with your child to develop a routine that suits the whole family and includes a range of activities, for example, schoolwork (literacy and numeracy), physical activity, creative play, family time and limited amounts of screen time.

Maintain social relationships. Use technologies (such as FaceTime, Zoom or Skype) to help your child maintain contact with friends and other family members, such as grandparents. For older children and teenagers, it is important to monitor their use of social media accounts as excessive use can lead to increased levels of anxiety.

Have fun. For many children, their out of school activities (e.g. swimming, football) have been cancelled but it is important for them to stay active. Harness their interests and have fun with them at home (e.g. play cricket in the backyard or dance to music inside). You can also take this opportunity to spend quality time with your child by teaching them a new skill or game, read with them, or research a new topic together.


Content last updated: 3 June 2020

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