Since the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a Nation-wide lockdown, I thought it would be helpful to suggest some practical ways to keep healthy during the 21 day lockdown.
Now even more than before, it is so important to be intentional and proactive about your health and to avoid sleep deprivation (or too much sleep!), poor food choices, becoming sedentary and on top of it having to deal with unusuall stresses such as the uncertainty of the outcomes of this global pandemic, trying to keep children occupied, and for may people – the stress of weight or fat gain during the lockdown (to name a few).
There are varying interpretations of being healthy. Some may think it is if you never get a cold or flu even if you have a sedentary lifestyle, some think health is if you can run a marathon. But it is more than that. The World Health Organisation defines health as:
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Continue with a regular exercise regime.
There are so many fitness experts offering free online exercises that you can do at home during this time. If you are a member of a Virgin Active gym, you can download their app and log in to see many different home exercises. You can take a walk / jog around your garden or complex to get some fresh air or do home weight-bearing exercises like sit-ups, lunges, squats and push-ups. Exercise results in a release of endorphins and dopamine which not only helps to reduce stress and maintain a healthy immune system, but has shown in studies to reduce cravings of high fat, refined foods.
If you would like more information on who you can contact for home exercises, please contact us and we will gladly forward this information onto you.
Do less sitting
It is recommended that you do not sit for more than 30 – 60 minutes at a time. Studies suggest that long sitting times were associated with exhaustion during the working day, decreased job satisfaction, hypertension, and musculoskeletal disorder symptoms in the shoulders, lower back, thighs, and knees of office workers.
- Pace while you are on a phone call / teleconference
- Set a timer for 30-60 minutes to remind you to get up and walk around, do some stretches or a couple of minutes of light exercise.
- Take every opportunity to be active.
Food and Nutrition
Do a weekly trip to the grocery store
(This will save you time and money too!)
- Make sure that you choose mostly whole-grains, high fibre / low GI carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables and low-fat animal products.
- You are solving the problem of having to resist temptation while you are at home if you don’t put the highly refined convenient snack foods in your home in the first place.
Plan your meals
Before you go shopping, plan your meals for the week ahead and write a list of what you will need for the week. If you eat regular, planned meals throughout the day, you are less likely to crave high fat, high sugar snacks.
Eat away from your desk! (See below for mindful eating)
Not sure if you are hungry, thirsty or bored? If you haven’t eaten for the past 3-5 hours, then perhaps you are hungry. Listen to your hunger cues. Drink a glass of water and reassess your hunger after 10 minutes. Aim for 8 glasses of water per day.
Limit your time on social media
This can be very distracting and can steal a lot of time away where you could have been productive with your work. Studies have also shown an increase in anxiety and stress associated with time spent on social media. This is particulary important now, as there is an overwhelming amount of information on the coronavirus and often it is misleading information which can cause panic and uncertainty. On-going stress can make us susceptible to illness and disease.
Make your bed, shower and start working.
Yes, you aren’t seeing any clients today so there is no need to dress up, but at least get out of your PJ’s, brush your teeth and make your bed (don’t work in bed). It may sound small, but that accomplishment of the day has already equipped you with the motivation to cross more things off the list. Be your own boss and be strict with this.
I’m going to say it again – exercise regularly (read above).
Go outside and get some sunshine! For just 10 minutes a day, expose your skin to the sunlight. Not only is Vitamin D deficiency associated with depression but it also assist with maintaining a healthy immune system.
Now I know those who have little babies will find this one rather difficult, but make sure you get 7-9 hours of quality, un-interrupted sleep as much as possible. Anything less than 6 hours of sleep is insufficient for optimal health. Studies have shown that short sleep duration is associated with higher fat and higher calorie intake.
- Avoid screen time (laptop / TV / cell phones) at least 1 hour before bed time.
- Have your last cup of coffee by 2pm
- Make sure you don’t have any interruptions while you sleep.
- Exercise will help with reducing stress levels and can also assist with quality of sleep.
If you are still working (from home), stick to set working hours.
If you are prone to procrastinating, this may help. Give yourself realistic deadlines and take them seriously. Communicate this with your clients and colleagues as well. This will help you to make time for these healthy tips that have been shared thus far.
Get into your hobbies – or start a hobby that you have always wanted to do, but never had the time.
- Be mindful when you eat your meals so that you are more in tune with your satiety cues – don’t busy yourself by multi-tasking (answering emails or WhatsApp messages / watching TV etc). Take advantage of this precious time to prepare dinner and sit and enjoy your meal with your family.
- It can get quite lonely during lockdown, especially if you are living on your own. Schedule regular face-time or phonecalls with positive like-minded people to keep your spirits high.
There are a lot of practical tips listed here. If it is too overwhelming for you to incorporate them all into your daily / weekly routine, then start with one or 2 of the suggestions that you feel you can incorporate into your lifestyle easily. Once you have succeeded with those you will probably have more motivation to try out some of the other suggestions.
There is no need to to put so much pressure on yourself to be as productive as many of the people on social media are “bragging” about. If you wake up at 10am or 11am and keep your PJ’s on all day and snack on “all the wrong things” and you don’t do your home exercises – dont get yourself down about it, just don’t let this continue for the whole lockdown period! While these health tips mentioned above are ideal and would be amazing to accomplish on a daily basis, enjoying these 3 weeks that we will most probably never get again in our lifetime is something to take advantage of.
Get in touch with us if you would like more clarity on the above nutritional suggestions.
Click here for more information and advice from the South African Department of Health on COVID-19.
- Daneshmandi, H et al (2017). Adverse Effects of Prolonged Sitting Behavior on the General Health of Office Workers. J Lifestyle Med. 2017 Jul; 7(2): 69–75.
- Dashti H et al (2015). Short Sleep Duration and Dietary Intake: Epidemiologic Evidence, Mechanisms, and Health Implications. American Society for Nutrition. Adv Nutr 2015;6:648–59.