4 Low-Intensity Exercise Ideas

Morning, friends and neighbors.

Sorry if I’ve been quiet as of late. Sadly, there are prices to pay for being a bundle of energy that pilots a robot made of meat and untanned leather…

Getting sick kinda sucks.


Anytime I haven’t been writing or working has been spent on the couch lately- sleeping and consuming absurd amounts of tea, broth, ramen, and painfully-written classic sci-fi.

Frankly, that suits the recent weather here in Portland down to the ground too.  Long stretches of rain, wind, and cold tend to inspire space heaters and Netflix over long walks in Oregon’s natural splendor.

(Most of the time, anyway. When I’m not sick, a long walk in the rain can be really soothing.)

None of it helps, however, when you are a bundle of nerves like myself. Yes, you can accept that you’re not feeling up to your usual activity and need to rest- but there are moments when the cabin fever can be worse than the flu.

You can’t spend all day lazing about- you need to move! NEED to get up and clean, type, work, DO SOMETHING. 

So screw it- you take some flu meds, pound down some pre-workout, and get ready for your usual exercise routine…

Ouch. No. Ugh. Bad. Nope.

Listen To Your Body

Well, now you’ve done it. You pushed too hard too fast, and not only have you coughed up a lung on your exercise mat and blown a serving of pre-workout (that stuff gets pricy!), you FEEL weak and crappy, physically and mentally.

Your body has ways of telling you when 100% is gonna be more like 60% for a while, and you’d do well to listen to it. Whether it’s just having a temporary illness, chronic pain flare-up, or just having a low-spoon day- if your body is telling you to chill out, LISTEN.

This can be REALLY frustrating if being active serves several purposes for you:

  • Stress relief
  • Distraction from other stressors
  • Meditation/thinking time
  • You’re trying to make fitness a habit and are afraid of backsliding.

Since I’ve been sick, I have managed to dial back my regular exercise a bit, but the drive is still there- the need for routine, to sweat, and to move.

In looking up answers (and researching for the upcoming book) I’ve tried out a few ideas for low-intensity exercise– physical activities that don’t take the toll that regular exercise does on the body and energy reserves. Usually, you hear about it in terms of activities for the elderly or people recovering from injuries.

Well, guess what, champ. You aren’t at 100% currently, and running a 10K trail will hurt more than help for right now.

Next time you find yourself climbing up the walls in between sneezing fits, give some of these ideas a try!

1. Stationary Exercises

woman in purple tank top and gray sweat pants

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you’re sick, you’re probably not into anything that’s going to get you breathing hard and make you bounce around (lest that last bowl of chicken soup come back to bite you.) Look into exercises that require little, slow, or controlled motions- such as yoga. Start slow and easy, go at your own pace, and listen to your body.

For myself, I picked a series of exercises for my card deck that all exercise my core- but require me lying on my back the entire time-

  • Spades- Flat Leg Raises
  • Hearts- Crunches
  • Clubs- Heel Touches
  • Diamonds- Bicycle Kicks (x2)

The fact that I can get a decent workout in, at my pace, and while catching up on a favorite podcast is an all-around win in my book.


2. Gyroscope/ Powerball Training

Gyroscope exercisers

Some years ago, I picked up a gyroscope ball from a sports store in order to build my grip strength. I’d remembered one of my friends who rock-climbed having one, and while rock-climbing wasn’t my thing, being able to keep hold of a bag of flour certainly was.

When I injured my wrist a few weeks ago, it proved to be even MORE useful.

Gyroscope balls use rotational force to simulate weight. Once it gets spinning, the gyroscope constantly tries to re-orient itself so that it’s axis is completely vertical. Being stuck on a track inside the ball, however, the gyroscope transfers that force to you and wrench itself out of your grip.

Animated GIF of someone using a gyroscope exerciser

In practical terms, this means that a 9 oz. gyroscope, when it gets up to high RPMs, can feel like a 35 lbs. weight in your hand. Using the principles of isometric exercise, your muscles then get the requisite workout.

Coming in at relatively cheap for a basic model ($20 for one without a computer, starting base, lights, etc.), the gyroscope is usually recommended for light strength training and therapy, especially for people with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. When the workout gets too intense, one simply slows down- the gyroscope slows as well and becomes easier to handle.

The only real downside to this thing is that it’s is purely an upper-body exerciser, with different postures focusing on the fingers, palm, wrist, arm muscles, and shoulder-  but when you’re couch-ridden it’s definitely better than nothing.

3. Dancing

No, I’m not kidding. Dancing is rapidly becoming my rainy-day cardio of choice.

Animated GIF of Baby Groot dancing in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Yes, “Mr. Blue Sky” is on the playlist.

Besides being just plain fun and allowing you to go as hard/fast or slow/easy as you want, dancing can be a full-body workout- Zumba is a thing for a reason, you know.

It packs mental health benefits as well, such as reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. If you know you tend toward Seasonal Affective Disorder, a rainy-day dance session in your living room can help your mood.

So even if you’re homebound, it’s always a good time to PARTY.

… DO NOT expect Instagrams of me dancing though. No one needs to see that.

4. Isometric Exercises

Isometric exercise is the overarching principle that makes both yoga and the powerball above work- the idea that muscle can be developed by increasing tension on the muscle without changing its length (i.e. through motion.)

It can be done with or without weights, in either “overcoming” or “yielding” exercises. “Yeilding” exercises include holding a weight aloft and simply keeping it there, the effort of remaining static offering the needed muscular tension. This is also at work in yoga or “stress positions”- such as wall squats and planks.

“Overcoming” exercises, meanwhile, involve exerting force against an immovable object- such as lifting a bar that has been chained to the floor or pushing as hard as you can against a wall. The gyroscope reflects this well- even though there is a small range of motion involved in keeping the ball going, ultimately the tension comes from crushing the ball in your grip which (unless you are secretly Bruce Banner) you are not likely to be able to crush.

Even though the use of weight is optional, these exercises do come with a caveat- the tension placed on your muscles is REAL and CAN be overdone/cause damage. Once again, listen to your body and don’t push it.


That’s about all I’ve got for today. Time to pound some more tea and watch the rest of the Monty Python filmography.

Or recategorize some more blog posts. That too.

Stay Classy (and feel better!),

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