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5 Ways to Stay Physically & Mentally Healthy During COVID-19

There’s no denying that doing our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus is causing severe disruptions to our daily lives, making it challenging to maintain the routines and practices that keep us fit and healthy. While it’s tempting during these uncertain times to find comfort in generous helpings of chocolate and Netflix, it’s critical to not let workout routines, good nutrition and self care fall by the wayside. 

 

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we all get off our couches, get moving, and take action to maintain a healthy mind and body.  Fortunately, there’s plenty we can do to stay physically and mentally healthy while still observing social distancing guidelines.

 

Adopt an Indoor Fitness Routine

“Stay at home” guidelines are not meant to imply “still at home,” and you should never underestimate the power of a body in motion. According to the American College of Sports medicine, “exercise is known to have a profound impact on the normal functioning of the immune system.” 

 

Many fitness facilities across the country, forced to temporarily close their doors, are now providing remote workout options. Fit Factory is currently offering a variety of virtual classes as well as pre-recorded workouts.

 

Dr. Russell G. Buhr, a pulmonologist at U.C.L.A Health, emphasized the importance of physical activity during this intense period of isolation in an article published last week in the New York Times, “You don’t need fancy equipment or a lot of time; you just need to weave exercise into your schedule,” Buhr said. 

 

Jumping rope, as suggested by the The Mayo Clinic, is a great way to achieve a “simple, quick, full-body workout” that you can complete anywhere. 

 

In  “How to Exercise at Home During Coronavirus Outbreak,” Verywellfit.com detailed a wide selection of at-home workouts that help you lose weight, tone up, and gain strength, all by using the body alone. Many of the workouts also include modifications for those at beginning, intermediate or advanced fitness levels. 

 

For those looking to incorporate some accessories into their workouts, items like resistance bands, foam rollers or an aerobic step are great examples of versatile yet inexpensive options. Check out these additional at-home workout accessories to help you get creative with your workouts. 

 

In addition to having an exercise routine, weaving intentional movement into your daily activities is also vitally important. With so many people now working from home, The World Health Organization (WHO) is strongly recommending that we find ways to stay physically active throughout the work day. Suggestions include walking around during calls, using a standing desk, taking a break to complete active chores or taking a few minutes to dance to a favorite song. Including short bursts of movement into your day and trying to reduce sedentary time at every turn should be your ultimate goal. 

 

No matter how you choose to incorporate exercise into your life right now, it’s clear that fitness needs to remain a priority during the pandemic. As California fitness studio owner and personal trainer Holly Roser told the Washington Post last week: “Working out is the best thing you can possibly do right now.”

 

Get Outside 

Moving your workout outdoors is a great way to combat cabin fever, boost your overall health, and maintain a positive mindset. Running, hiking, power-walking, and biking are examples of outdoor activities that offer a great cardio workout. 

 

According to The American Heart Association, spending time outdoors helps to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve your mental alertness, discourage negative rumination and spark creativity.

 

Moreover, CNN explains yet another benefit to outdoor exercise: a vitamin D boost. Exposure to the sun increases our vitamin D levels, which is vital to our immune function and overall mental health. 

 

Naturally there may be concerns about leaving the house and exercising outside, but The New York Times tells us that right now, outdoor exercise is safe, and even encouraged, as long as we practice the recommended social distancing.  

 

Fight Stress 

It’s no secret that regular exercise is critical to combating the effects of both long and short term stress. According to Healthline, exercise helps to lower the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, while triggering the release of endorphins, otherwise known as the “feel good hormones.” 

 

In addition to exercise, maintaining close contact with friends and family during this difficult time will help decrease stress. This is especially true as we confront a reality that includes prolonged physical separation from loved ones, friends, and co-workers, and significant upheaval to our everyday life. Video calling options such as Zoom, Skype, and Facetime are great tools for helping us maintain our connections despite the physical distance. 

 

Mindfulness practices such as meditation offer another great way to alleviate tension. Verywell Mind explains how a meditation routine can be a relaxing experience that helps you to “reverse your body’s stress response.” Adapting meditation as a daily habit can be particularly beneficial, as it can help your body become more resistant to the effects of stress. 

 

Limiting our consumption of news and social media at this time is another important stress reliever, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although we need to stay informed, it’s also crucial that we don’t let watching and reading the news consume our lives.   


 

Stick To a Routine

Choosing to adopt a daily routine at a time when our lives are overwhelmed with uncertainty may yield many positive effects. Having a routine allows us to be intentional about how we spend our time, offers a comforting familiarity, and gives us a much needed sense of control. 

 

Danielle Forshee, a Doctor of Psychology and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, told The Hill that routine “helps us cope with change, it helps to create healthy habits, and more importantly, it helps to reduce stress levels.” Forshee explained how structuring your time around a set of routines helps to lessen anxiety by ensuring that you know exactly what to expect.  

 

Having a consistent bed and wake time, as well as regular meal times, is a great place to start. The American Psychological Association suggests crafting a daily schedule for work, exercise and learning, and to also dedicate set times to enjoy your favorite activities.

 

Eat Healthy

Stress and the inevitable boredom from containment indoors makes it challenging to resist unhealthy cravings. Nonetheless, it’s important that we take care to boost our immune systems by caring for our bodies with good nutrition.

 

Acknowledging that stress is contributing to poor food choices or overeating is the first step to combating stress eating, according to Time.com. Carmen Byker Shanks, an associate professor of food, nutrition and sustainable food systems at Montana State University, told Time that the best way to counteract stress eating is to “admit that it’s happening, and try to productively channel those feeling elsewhere, whether by venting to a good friend, writing down your feelings or diving into a good book.”

 

Shanks also offered some practical tips for stocking your fridge and pantry with healthy choices. He suggests having a plan for meals, making a list, and purchasing staples that are low in saturated fat, sodium and sugars. 

 

The American Society of Nutrition underscores the importance of planning meals around whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and to minimize portion sizes for meats, as this will help to decrease saturated fat intake. 

 

Other strategies for healthy eating, including limiting the purchase of unhealthy foods, trying out new, fun recipes, and staying hydrated are outlined in Fit Factory’s Mindfulness E-Book

 

As we look forward to returning to our pre-pandemic lives, it’s important that we focus on what we can control, remain positive, and do what we can to prioritize our mental and physical health. 

 

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