Health Agenda

Mental Health

Create a health retreat at home

5 simple steps to transform your home into a health retreat.

Health Agenda magazine
January 2018

Not everyone has the time or money to spend a week at a health retreat, but here’s how to transform your home into a retreat if you need a break.

1. Set up your environment

Creating a health retreat starts with setting up a home environment that removes barriers to an active lifestyle. Carly Ryan, an accredited exercise physiologist, says the key to this is planning.

She recommends placing exercise equipment where it’s accessible and there’s enough space to use it – so you can easily lie down on a yoga mat and stretch, for example.

The design of your health retreat also extends to your kitchen, since nutritious food is important. Accredited practising dietitian Gabrielle Maston suggests going through your pantry and placing processed foods (like biscuits, chocolates and sweets) in opaque containers so they’re out of sight, or just getting rid of them.

Next, encourage healthy eating by having nutritious and whole foods on display, such as a fruit bowl on the table and chopped vegetables in clear containers in the fridge.

If you have kids at home, it can be hard to make time for yourself and your relationship (if you have a partner). But all good health retreats encourage ‘me time’ and reconnecting with your partner.

Build some child-free time into your weekend by creating a network of people you can call on to babysit, and booking them in. Or if you can, splash out on a babysitting service, with the knowledge that booking blocks of babysitting is a lot cheaper than going on an organised retreat.

2. Plan healthy meals

A meal plan helps curb impulses to grab sugary treats. To eat healthily for your retreat at home, spend an hour or 2 before preparing meals for the week ahead.

“What I like to do, and encourage other people to do, is make up big batches of food, such as 1-pot-wonder type meals with lots of vegetables and protein... and freeze them,” she says.

This preparation helps reduce time spent in the kitchen and your likelihood of reaching for unhealthy quick-fix meals. For meal ideas, visit our recipes page.

3. Digital detox

In this age of smartphones and social media, it’s easy to fall into bad habits with technology. To achieve that ultimate health retreat vibe we need to switch off – and some people already are doing that.

According to a study by UK communications regulator Ofcom, 30% of people did a ‘digital detox’ vacation last year, such as choosing holidays in locations where there was no internet access. And 34% said they had opted to go internet-free for intermittent days or weeks during the year, with spending more time doing other things being the most common reason.

At home, you can do this by turning data and WiFi off on your phone, so it can only be used for calls and texts, or turn it off altogether. You can also turn off your home WiFi and put all devices such as tablets and laptops away.

To help motivate yourself to put down your phone, find a relaxing activity – and it doesn’t have to be an expensive yoga class.

“For some people, running long distances is therapeutic and quite meditative,” says Maston.

Other ways to relax may include walking the dog, drawing, gardening or using meditation apps like Headspace or Calm.

4. Do physical exercise

Most retreats include an element of fitness, and you can do this at home using a downloadable app on your TV or computer such as Zova (free to download) or Sworkit (free trial available). If you’re doing a digital detox, use an app that works offline, like Nike Training Club. Make sure you download apps before your retreat begins, and check they don’t require internet access to use so you’re not tempted to check social media.

“Physical activity can be done in as small as 10-minute blocks and you’ll still get really great benefits,” Ryan says.

It also doesn’t need to be a high-intensity aerobic class at your local gym. Physical activity is simply anything that gets your muscles moving.

“At the very minimum, we want people to start thinking about where are these opportunities to get a few minutes in here or there to get that body moving.”

Although you may have heard the recommendation to do 30 minutes of exercise a day, The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines advise us to calculate our physical activity as a weekly total, instead of daily, and Ryan says that’s a lot more manageable. As long as we hit between 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, we’re on the right track.

If you prefer vigorous-intensity exercise, aim for 75 to 100 minutes a week. The free Mindbody app can help you find fitness classes nearby (though you’ll need to book classes before your digital detox begins).

5. Encourage self care

Health retreats are a lot about nurturing your body and a simple way to do that is by being body aware before and after exercise. Warming up and cooling down is important, says Ryan, as is stretching.

Ryan says to find something you love doing, such as surfing or dancing, because caring for your body is not about short-term exercise but finding an activity that will help you create that lasting health retreat feeling.

For example, Ryan says yoga is a great combination of muscle strengthening, stretching, mobility and flexibility.

“Lots of people who often think ‘That’s really not for me’, as soon as they start doing it actually go ‘This is amazing’.”

Yoga doesn’t work for you? Pilates is another good alternative.

You can also check out fitness classes at your local community centre or sporting clubs, which may be able to introduce you to a new activity, from line dancing to beach volleyball.

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