Learn more from our Health & Wellness expert on how to commit to being fit in the age of COVID-19
The pandemic is the perfect time to invest in our health.
For many of us the old routine of our lives has shifted, making it necessary to create a new routine that ensures we maintain our health and avoid falling into bad habits. Understandably, there has been a noteworthy uptick among former clients, friends, family members, social media posts, and news outlets reporting unwanted weight gain during the shutdown. As lighthearted as this was early on, we now know just how dangerous this virus is to people with decreased immune function or metabolic related dysfunctions such as insulin resistance, hypertension and obesity.
In general, our average activity level has decreased and our proximity to the fridge has increased. You don’t need a PhD in thermodynamics to understand the consequences of that equation. Initially, I think we all have struggled to find our new “normal,” and perhaps gained a few unwanted pounds along the way. Is that the worst thing ever? No, but the consequences of that type of lifestyle may not be as innocuous as you think.
We are all living in the middle of a global pandemic, and while we may not be in control of what policies are put in place or whether or not the people at the grocery store are being as diligent about their hygiene as we’d like, we can control our health. We can still feed ourselves a nutrient rich diet, we can still exercise, we can still address stress and we can still commit to getting quality sleep.
I talk to a lot of people who are stressed about what they can’t control while downright ignoring what they can. The negative psychological consequences of thinking like this are bad enough, but the health risks are something I think we need to pay more attention to. While any of us can become infected with COVID-19, not all of us are being affected equally. It’s widely accepted that low vitamin D, pre-existing conditions, older age, and obesity all play a big role in the severity of the symptoms people have experienced. The thing all these risk factors have in common is that they weaken the immune system. So why aren’t we more focused on doing things to boost our immune system?
I would argue there has been a huge missed opportunity here. Where are the headlines telling us to get our vitamin D up by getting into the sunshine or taking a supplement? Where are the news reports giving millions of people the advice that now more than ever is a time to look after your health and get leaner? Why isn’t the data associating metabolic dysfunction (obesity, insulin resistance and hypertension) with severe COVID symptoms just as prominent as mask wearing in the news? Instead we have adopted a convenient fixed mindset on the matter and relinquished all control and responsibility to the outcome. Rather than wait for a vaccine or magic pill while we enjoy our virtual happy hours and learn to bake cookies, why wouldn’t we all just make ourselves as healthy and hard to kill as possible?
Is it automatic that being leaner, healthier and with adequate levels of vitamin D will save us? No, nobody is saying that. But a lot of medical professionals would agree that alcohol consumption, low exposure to natural light (sunshine), heightened stress levels, a sedentary lifestyle (stuck at home all day), and lack of positive social interaction lead to a weaker immune system. Does any of that sound familiar? If so, maybe it’s time to make a few tweaks to the weekly routine to include some things like: a daily walk outside for 20-60 minutes, strength training (even body weight) a few times a week, some stress management daily like breathwork or stretching, fewer nights of drinking per week, and a diet with plenty of protein, colorful vegetables, some fruits and some healthy fats. Limiting sugar, oils, especially those high in omega 6, and flour based products can go a long way towards boosting gut health, weight loss, and lowering inflammation.
A lot of what boosts our immune system also leads to weight loss and in some cases is a direct result of weight loss, as higher body fat percentage increases inflammation all by itself. With most of us spending more time at home and less time at work, happy hours, conferences and on airplanes, it’s a perfect opportunity to eat better, de-stress better, and feel better. We had our adjustment phase, and now is the perfect time to take back some control and layer in some healthy habits that will not only give us an extra level of protection during the pandemic, but can serve as the foundation for a long healthy life for years to come.
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