When most of us are either encouraged or forced to stay at home, understanding the different ways to keep safe, fit and healthy during this very unusual crisis is vital for our physical and mental capacities.
As more and more countries are getting under lockdown, there are certain measures that are crucial, both to minimise the spread of the Covid-19, but also to avoid having other future health problems due to a prolonged lack of body activity.
Safety is first
Here is what you can do to protect yourself and others from Coronavirus:
- Stay home as much as you can.
- Say way from the crowded places.
- Maintain social distancing.
- Avoid poorly ventilated places, a potential focus of infection.
- Wash your hands often, with soap.
- Avoid touching your eyes, face, nose and mouth.
- Practise respiratory hygiene. Use disposable napkins and place it in a safe place.
- Stay well informed and away from viral fake news. Do not share any information coming from unreliable sources.
- Don’t use or stockpile masks if you have not been diagnosed as sick from Coronavirus. Leave the mask stocks for the people who truly need them, both professionals or Coronavirus patients.
- Do a racional stock up of groceries, medicine and resources, just in case.
- Follow the advices giving by your nearest health care provider, or online by visiting only reliable sources such as WHO.
You got it right ...
Being sedentary is very bad for your physical and mental health, so being active and following some basic nutrition guidelines during this crisis time is more important than ever. Why is this? Eating healthy and being physically active has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It also helps maintain muscle mass, reducing the risk of developing loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia), and helps maintaining bone density, reducing the risk of developing loss of bone density (osteoporosis).
Physical activity also helps to keep your immune system working effectively, pushing microorganisms away from the lungs and airways, and raising white blood cell circulation and body temperature, thus helping the body fight in case of infection.
Furthermore, keeping active is fundamental to avoid some of the psychological problems associated with long-term confinement periods, as being physically active helps lowering stress hormones (cortisol), and the release of happy hormones (endorphins).
So what can I do?
1. Be nutrition minded
- Fresh products are always the best option, but when they are not available, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that are easy to store and prepare.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. If possible, get fresh products. Fruits and vegetables can also be frozen, retaining nutrients and flavour. Here is an special dedicatory to carrots.
- Try healthy dried or canned products when fresh is not available. Canned beans and chickpeas, rich in nutrients, can be stored for months or years, and can be included in many healthy meals. Canned fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. These can be used in sandwiches, salads or pasta dishes. Canned vegetables, such as tomatoes, contain a lower amount of vitamins than fresh products, but they are a great option when fresh or frozen options are not available. Dried beans and grains such as lentils, peas, rice, couscous or quinoa are also very nutritious, long-lasting options, tasty, affordable and help you fill full for a longer period of time, avoiding cravings. Oats cooked with light milk, soy milk, or water can be an excellent breakfast, and can be spiced-up with yoghurt, chopped fruits or raisins.
- Limit, or better avoid highly processed foods. Ready-to-eat meals, packaged snacks and sugar-enriched desserts are often high in saturated fat, sugars, salt, and many calories. If you purchase processed foods, look at the label and try to choose healthier options.
- Rather than eating sweets or salty snacks, better choose healthier options such as nuts, peanuts, light cheese, light yoghurt (unsweetened or artificially sweetened), chopped or dried fruits, boiled eggs, or other locally available healthy options.
- Avoid sugary drinks. Drink lots of water. Adding fruits or vegetables like lemon, lime, or berry slices to water is a great alternative to add your favourite flavour to your drink. You can also try tea or coffee which by the way can also help to digest your extra fats.
- Stick to scheduled mealtimes. These routines can help to reduce anxiety during stressful situations.
- Be aware of portion sizes and calorie density. Every calorie counts.
- Be wise while choosing foods and drinks at the store. Healthy choices are more nutritious and make you feel full during a longer time, while helping to build healthy eating habits that can even last forever.
- Keep motivated.
- More tips.
General food hygiene tips
Wash your hands with soap before preparing any food, and before and after eating. Always use clean utensils and plates. Use separate chopping boards to prepare uncooked fresh foods. Cook food to the recommended temperature. Keep perishable items refrigerated or frozen. Pay attention to the product expiry dates. Recycle/ dispose the food waste and packaging in a hygienic manner, to avoiding potential focus of infection and attracting pests.
2. Fit and healthy by regular exercise
Many people exercise in a gym or go for a run around their vicinities, so being forced to spend long periods of time at home is a great opportunity to change your exercise habits for other efficient alternatives that you might be able to keep them after this storm:
- If you are not under forced-isolation and you are allowed to exercise outside (as people in many countries can), then regular walking, running or cycling is a great choice to stay fit and healthy. Just make sure you keep a distance of 1.5 - 2 metres away from other people.
- if you are one of those who is stuck at home, there are also many options to stay active and getting started, or continue with your daily workout routine: a) If you own an exercise bike, treadmill, weights or resistance bands, then you are already familiar with this sort of in-house way of keeping fit and healthy; b) if not possible, then any workout activity that raises the heart rate is good for your cardiovascular health, and this is where calisthenics (person's own body weighting) come to play, or you can go for a healthy brisk walking around your house, walk up and down the stairs, stand or walk around your living room when you are watching TV, reading the newspaper or over the phone; anything better than sitting down; c) listening to music 2-3 times a day, ideally while dancing, can also contribute to reach your daily exercise goal; d) alternatively, you can search for those old already forgotten fitness, yoga, or pilates DVDs, use them and redeeming your investment.
- If you need some guidance about the kind of exercises you can do at home, I put together a very simple 10-minute home workout for you to get you started.
- Senior people should also stay fit and healthy now more important than ever, as staying fit and healthy can truly help you stay stronger and more resistant to the Coronavirus. I have created a special guide for promoting the good health of our beloved seniors.
3. Technology can help
Alternatively, using any of the many apps, tools or YouTube videos promoting physical activity, and logging workouts and meals using some apps in a daily basis, can also be fundamental to avoid weight gaining during this outbreak, and helping to avoiding confinement-related health issues during the lockdown. For this matter, I have created a bunch of free and PRO apps tackling every aspect of weight management, fitness and health.
Throughout this time of uncertainty, something we can really take control of is our physical and mental health and wellbeing. So, whatever your situation, try to keep safe as much as active while eating healthily and staying well motivated and hydrated.
Also, take a good care of your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.