Covid-19: Staying Healthy Through the Pandemic

As we navigate these unprecedented times, we are faced with the reality of living our everyday lives within our home.  Staying home is essential to flattening the curve and preventing the spread of and/or exposure to Covid-19.  But this is very unfamiliar territory for many.  How do we remain physically and mentally healthy?


Let’s start with nutrition.  Maintaining a healthy diet is always important, but even more so during this time.  Before going to the grocery store to “stock up,” have a plan.  Design your meals prior to grocery shopping.  Planning ahead of time will ensure you purchase only the items you need and will help you avoid panic buying.  Remember, grocery stores will remain open; there is no need to hoard.  While most people seem to be buying up grains or canned goods (and toilet paper and bottled water), buying fresh fruits and vegetables would be better choices to help support your immune system.  Or rather than physically going to the grocery store and exposing yourself or others, consider online grocery shopping or home delivery options.


Additionally, some find snacking can get out of hand. Try to keep healthy snacks available, but when the urge hits you to reach for that chip bag, ask yourself, are you truly hungry or just bored.  Distract yourself, can you do some quick stretches, go for a walk or talk to a friend who may be overindulging as well.


Furthermore, don’t buy into the claim that certain supplements can boost your immune system.  The FDA has been monitoring and warning companies that offer fraudulent products that claim to help prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure COVID-19.  Untested supplements and other products touted as a prevention or cure to COVID-19 that are not regulated by the FDA may be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.   The best immune system support plan is to continue eating well-balanced meals while perhaps adding a few extra fruits and vegetables.  Adhering to a healthy eating pattern will naturally keep your immune system working at its best.  


You may not be able to go to the gym, but keeping physically active is an essential component of staying healthy during this time.  But how do you do this when gyms are closed, parks and trails are closed and now more recently, beaches?  Getting outside for a walk, run, or a bike ride is still an option as long as you follow social distancing requirements.  If you’re working out at home, personal trainer and owner of Phitgroup, Paul Healing suggests looking into your gym or check in with your fitness instructor as many are offering virtual training.  According to Healing, movement is a necessity for health.   Don’t use this difficult situation we are in as an excuse to stop moving.  Get creative!  How about sit-ups, chair sit-stands, planks, burpees, and/or push-ups.  Use common household items such as wine bottles or cans of food as a replacement for weights; chairs can be used for step-ups or towels for sliders or mountain climbers. Use your imagination and have fun with it!


Exercise and healthy eating is important, but your mental well-being plays a significant part in navigating through this difficult time as well.   And sleep is crucial to your mental health.  Meditation and yoga are tools for managing stress and anxiety, which in turn will assist with a restful night sleep.  As with physical fitness, many studios are offering virtual classes.  Furthermore, overexposure to news or general chaos can be detrimental to stress or anxiety levels.  Find a quiet place in your home and stock it with calming items - a favorite blanket, a scented candle, or soothing music, for instance.  Try disconnecting.  Take a break from watching, reading, or listening to the news, including social media.  Call, FaceTime, or Skype, a friend or family member, to stay connected to others.  We all know the virus is present, but we may not necessarily need up to the minute news feeds and remember we are social beings, so reach out and stay connected with your community. 


The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all aspects of our lives, and maintaining your overall health, mental, and physical is more important than ever.  If we follow these necessary precautions, such as staying home, washing hands often, not touching your mouth, nose, or eyes and practicing social distancing, we are minimizing our risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as minimizing the risk of exposing others in the community.  Don’t let protecting yourself against COVID-19 cause your health to take a plunge.  While it is essential to keep the pandemic in perspective and take it seriously, this is also a time to focus on keeping yourself healthy, both mentally and physically.


Erika Niedernhofer, Registered Dietitian