The COVID-19 pandemic has put millions of people in an unprecedented situation, as working from home, home schooling, and social distancing became the norm almost overnight. Ironically, the presence of a pandemic may be a great time to work on your health!
What are you doing with the time that is no longer spent commuting, dressing up for work, and packing a bag or briefcase? On weekends and during evenings, what are you doing instead of going to concerts, hanging out with friends at a bar or restaurant, or going shopping and taking kids to birthday parties and playdates?
If you are not sure, it may be possible that time is going to things that may not be all that productive, say, watching television, scrolling through social media, and eating junk food.
If you can harness that time and use it for healthy activities, you may be able to look back at “Quarantine 2020” as a time when you took care of yourself better than before. These are seven ideas for becoming a physically healthier version of yourself during this unprecedented time in our history, and be sure to also check our tips for emotional, social, and mental well-being during this time!
1. Drink more water.
Being chronically dehydrated can lead to fatigue, headaches, and weight gain, since the body can mistake thirst for hunger. Staying at home removes many common barriers to drinking enough water. You may always be within a few feet of water from the kitchen, you can set a timer to remind yourself to drink, no careless coworkers will accidentally take your water pitcher or water bottle, and you do not need to worry about nosy coworkers monitoring your trips to the restroom.
2. Eat more leafy greens.
It may be easier to eat more leafy green vegetables while working from home than while commuting. Adding dressing to spinach or spring greens at lunchtime instead of before leaving for work can make a salad more appealing. You can also take advantage of your own kitchen, such as by sauteing some spinach or kale for lunch, or baking kale chips with olive oil instead of hitting the vending machine for a snack.
3. Be physically active.
There are plenty of ways to be active even if you cannot get to the gym. Walking, biking, and running can all be done in the neighborhood, and jumping rope, lifting weights, yoga, and mat pilates can happen indoors or in a front or back yard. Many online group fitness classes are available, live or recorded, and they may be free, inexpensive, and/or partially or fully covered by your health insurance or employer.
4. Sleep better.
Anxiety from COVID-19 and causing many people to lose sleep. Do not let yourself be one of them! This is the perfect time to work on good sleep hygiene, such as having a good bedtime routine and sleeping in a comfortable, cool, quiet, and dark room. Setting aside enough time for sleep each night and having a consistent bedtime can also help.
5. Keep less junk food in the house.
Common sense says you are less likely to eat ice cream, candy, and chips when they are not in the house, and that may be even truer when you are spending more time at home. This may be a good time to focus on keeping less junk food around so you can eat less of it.
A benefit of not driving to work, school, and, well, pretty much anywhere else is that there can be less temptation to bring junk food into the house! When you are driving less, and staying closer to home, there is less need to use drive-throughs for a quick snack that can contain enough calories for a few meals. Any leftovers can also end up back at home to be eaten when they probably are not needed.
If you tend to be an impulse shopper at the grocery store, switching to a grocery delivery service instead of going shopping yourself can help prevent such purchases. When you send a list to an in-store shopper, that person is only allowed to buy what is on the list. There is no chance of ending up with, say, a candy bar and soda that looked really good when standing in line to check out. (If you do not already use such services, you might want to see what is available in your area. Many are reasonably priced, with a low monthly fee, free delivery, and in-store prices, and using them can help slow the spread of COVID-19).
6. Have a healthy breakfast.
When you had to be in the office at 7:00 a.m. after an hour-long commute, you may have been able to rationalize going to a drive-through for a fatty or starch-laden breakfast of a sausage and cheese biscuit, a blueberry muffin, or a bagel and cream cheese. Now, there is no reason not to have a healthier breakfast.
Overnight oatmeal with fruit, a whole-grain bagel and yogurt, and a whole-grain English muffin peanut butter are just as fast, and far healthier. If you have the time and desire to cook a bit, oatmeal or whole-wheat pancakes with fruit and yogurt, an egg white omelet with vegetables and leftover diced chicken, and a breakfast burrito with egg whites, black beans, salsa, tomatoes, and avocado in a whole-wheat tortilla.
7. Make your lunch.
Simply making your own lunch instead of ordering in or getting take can lead you to have a healthier midday meal, since homemade meals tend to be lower in calories, higher in vegetables, and lower in unhealthy fats. A simple example might be a sandwich. At home, the sandwich may include two slices of whole-wheat bread, some leftover baked chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, mustard, and a slice of cheese. In contrast, a sandwich from a restaurant may be on white bread and be filled with fried chicken or processed lunch meat, bacon, and mayo. It could come with chips and a soda, while you could serve your homemade sandwich with raw or cooked vegetables and fresh fruit. Similarly, a salad from a restaurant can have over 1,000 calories, while a salad at home can be lighter on fatty meats, dressings, and cheese, and have fewer starchy ingredients such as chow mein noodles and croutons.
Lunch possibilities are endless at home. They can include classic lunch items such as sandwiches, soup, and salads, as well as leftovers. You can try your hand at tofu, chicken, and salmon bowls, or have breakfast for lunch with a mini whole-grain bagel and some cottage cheese and fruit. Whatever you choose is likely to be better for your health than takeout. Burritos, hamburgers, pizza, and other classic lunch fare from restaurants often have over 1,000 calories and a load of starch and fat.