As we move into the summer months there is still so much we don’t know about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has seen the world slow to a halt. Even as cities across the United States have begun making moves to reopen, reports of increased cases bring further uncertainty about the best course of action for the country. As we continue to learn more about this virus and the disease it causes, we can at least be certain that this “new normal” way of life won’t be going away anytime soon. On an individual level, the best course of action is to move forward with this new way of life and develop healthy habits to maintain both your body and mind. Below are some easy and effective ways you can adapt your life to stay fit and thrive during this pandemic.
Daily walks are a necessity
When you’re cooped up at home for days on months on end, walking is not only a literal breath of fresh air and respite from the indoors, but it has also shown to have major benefits to your physical and mental health. Studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes of walking a day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost your muscles’ power and endurance. It can also reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers. Walking is low impact, and when practiced in tandem with proper social distancing measures, is a great way to get out of the house.
Perhaps even more beneficial are the mental health benefits walking can provide. Dopamine and endorphins are released in the brain when you take walks that produce feelings of euphoria, having a positive impact on mental and emotional stress. When you’re constantly inside without distraction, it can be easy to get in your head and worry about all of the unknowns. Through the process of movement, it can also help get you out of your normal environment and therefore think more outside the box, so if you’re feeling unmotivated or stuck while working from home, taking a brisk walk can be a great way to clear mental blocks.
Utilize fitness apps and get creative with your gym equipment
Speaking of exercise, if you’re missing the gym (I know I am) there are still plenty of ways to get your fix of adrenaline and endorphins at home. We’ve already talked about the benefits simply walking can bring to your health, and the recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. As the CEO of my own company, I strongly advocate for the stress-relieving benefits of a good workout routine.
Even without the specialized equipment and weights at the gym, you have the tools for an effective workout. Today, there are dozens of apps available that provide excellent at home workouts using minimal equipment, and everyday home items such as chairs and water jugs can easily become benches and weights to increase the intensity of your workout. Many fitness instructors are also offering their services online, and some of them are even free. By getting creative, you’ll soon find that you can still see results even without exercise machines.
Make sure you are getting your nutrients
When venturing outside of your home can seem unsafe, many people have begun grocery shopping with less frequency, preferring to shop in bulk whenever possible to avoid unnecessary contact with those outside of their own household. This may mean that you are purchasing less fresh produce and more canned and pre-packaged food items. While these have the benefit of a longer shelf life, it is important to remember the importance of nutritional value and be mindful of the nutrition facts label on each item to make sure you are still getting the vitamins and minerals needed for full immune function.
In general, one should be choosing foods and drinks that are higher in dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium, and fewer foods and drinks that are high in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. By maintaining healthy levels of nutrients, you better protect your immune system, improve brain function, and help keep metabolic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease at bay. Although during these stressful times it can be easy to indulge yourself with highly processed (and admittedly delicious) foods, now more than ever it’s important to keep our bodies healthy.
Keep a schedule, especially when it comes to sleep
As many of us no longer have an office to arrive at by a certain time each day, it can be easy to stay in our pajamas until 4PM and not go to bed until 2:30AM. But studies have shown that humans crave routine, and maintaining a daily schedule helps introduce normalcy and alleviates anxiety caused by the uncertainty we are currently facing. This is particularly important when it comes to sleep, as sleep deprivation can weaken a body’s immune system and make it more susceptible to contracting illnesses. By keeping a routine each day, you free up mental space to deal with larger concerns.
In order to keep up a regular sleep schedule, try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. While it can be easy to stay glued to your computer or phone during this time, constantly checking for the latest news update, studies have shown that it can affect your mind’s ability to rest and go to sleep, so it is best to put screens away at least an hour before you head to bed. You should also avoid eating or drinking too soon before bed, as that can activate your digestive system and keep you awake, and if you are having trouble falling asleep due to feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious, there are a multitude of calming apps that can help alleviate these feelings.
Invest in your home office
Even as workplaces are tentatively opening back up there is still the expectation that you will be working from home at least part-time, and many companies are choosing to make working from home their new norm. When the pandemic started, many of us set up shop wherever we could find the space, whether that be the kitchen table, the couch, or even the bed. While these are all good temporary solutions, as we enter the fourth month of our “new normal” it is now important to make some updates to our work environment, as working while lying on the couch will inevitably invite a terrible crick in your neck.
If you are lucky enough to have a home office space, you can look into upgrading your desk or chair — now may be a great time to try out the standing desk movement you’ve been interested in for a while but didn’t want to be the only person standing in your office. If you don’t have a designated room for working, see if you can find a small space in your home to carve out room for a desk and chair. If this isn’t an option, continue working from an upright position, and purchasing something to assist with your posture may be a worthy investment. Keeping as much separation as possible between work and home is essential to maintaining a healthy mindset through these unprecedented times.
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