Looking back at this past week, all I can conjure up is a giant question mark. What just happened?! It seemed as though talk about the corona virus went from taking vague and subtle precautions like washing your hands to a full-blown quarantine and social distancing in very little time. This quarantine can be a great source of stress for everyone, however, we can use this time to become laser-focused on our priorities; especially our physical, emotional, and psychological health. In this article, I’ll be sharing some methods I’ve been using during this quarantine to remain safe and sane throughout it.
Tip #1: Take Daily Walks
In my previous article titled “3 Major Benefits of Daily Walking,” I mentioned how daily walking can improve 3 major areas of our life including: weight loss and/or long-term weight loss maintenance, improved cardiovascular health, and improved mental health. In addition to these benefits, daily walking can reconnect you to the outside world whilst being forced to disconnect from it. During this quarantine it is recommended to stay away from large crowds so it is not recommended to walk in places that would involve that, however, a neighborhood walk typically would suffice. You may on occasion see the friendly, neighborhood lady walking her dog, but as long as your contact with her is limited and distanced, it should be safe to interact and go on about your day. Walking has helped me engage in self-reflection, listen to podcasts to learn new topics, circulate blood flow throughout my body, and listen to music/videos/other media I love so much! Walking is a great tool to keep those three previously mentioned health and well-being faucets in check (mental, physical, and emotional well-being).
Tip #2: Exercise
There is no doubt in scientific literature that exercise in general can improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This makes exercise one of the most imperative habits to maintain during this quarantine. Both cardiovascular and strength training exercises should and can be done while in quarantine. For cardiovascular training, there are a multitude of workout modalities to try including but not limited to: walking, jogging/running, biking, HIIT (high intensity interval training), boxing, kickboxing, dancing, jumping rope, and/or running/walking up stairs. Within these workouts, there is room to tamper with training techniques including tempo, reps, sets, and duration to increase or decrease the intensity of the workout itself. Try slowly adding in one of these modalities to your workout routine to reap the benefits of cardiovascular training during this quarantine.
Strength training is another very important exercise training method that is important to partake in while in quarantine. Of course with limited equipment, it can seem to be difficult to maintain an indoor strength training routine, however, it is very possible to maintain and (for some) even build muscle with bodyweight and limited-equipment, in-home workouts. My recommendations for the very beginning-newly intermediate crowd is to focus on compound bodyweight workouts with the goal of mastering the art of moving your own bodyweight through space. The amount of technique and strength required to efficiently do bodyweight workouts is often overlooked in the strength training community. Mastering compound bodyweight movements like push ups, chin/pull ups, squats, lunges, pike pushups, and planks will make doing these with weight in the gym incredibly easier and SAFER. In order to get the required muscle stimulus to reap the benefits of bodyweight training, it is recommended to train close to failure with these workouts. Training to failure simply means completing a certain number of reps until you find it physically impossible to complete more reps in that given set. Training close to this number means not completely reaching failure, but still reaching a point to induce a stimulus great enough to promote neuromuscular adaptations. This number varies drastically from person to person so it is best to do these exercises and determine that number on your own.
Tip #3: Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
Eating nutrient-dense foods has been recommended by all healthcare professionals as an imperative tool in preventive medicine. Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. family physician, founder and director of The UltraWellness Center and columnist for The Huffington Post very blatantly acknowledges that “poor quality food = poor health.” Following Dr. Hyman’s educational Instagram and Twitter feeds, he recommends the consumption of colorful vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and low-glycemic fruits because of their role in reducing inflammation, feeding our good gut bacteria, and balancing blood sugar. All of these factors greatly influence the body’s ability to ward off infectious diseases, like COVID-19, and can help improve immune system function in general. In this educational instagram post, Dr. Mark Hyman suggests these tips in using food to support your immune system function (click on the link above for the direct instagram post and more details on these recommendations):
- Cut out sugar/refined starches
- Get adequate protein intake (~1g/kg body weight/day)
- Add spices to your soups/veggie dishes (turmeric, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, ginger, etc.)
- Eat lots of colorful fruits/vegetables
Tip #4: Meditate
This tip may seem to be the least important on this list, but may deceptively actually be one of the most important points featured. Meditation can greatly influence the body’s stress levels and can even lengthen telomere lengths. In relation to being quarantined due to COVID-19, reductions in stress can greatly affect the body’s ability to ward off infectious diseases. According to a National Institute of Health article titled, “Meditation: Process and effects,” meditation greatly reduces stress levels, while chronic stress levels can greatly shorten the length of telomeres. Telomeres are the “protective caps at the end of chromosomes that promote chromosomal stability. Shorter telomeres are associated with accelerated aging and related diseases.”
Dr. Mark Hyman is also an advocate of mediation’s stress reducing qualities citing a study that showed stress levels and their relation to susceptibility to viral diseases. In this study, volunteers were injected with a virus into their nasal passages. Volunteers who scored lower on the stress assessment questionnaire did not succumb to the virus injection while volunteers who scored higher on the stress assessment questionnaire did. Meditation has been a proven way to greatly reduce stress levels which is a critical component of preventive medicine and disease control.
Tip #5: Work on Aspirations Through Habit-Forming
Everyone has at least one aspiration they would like to accomplish in their lifetime. This unanticipated time off can be a great opportunity to build momentum to eventually achieve this aspiration/aspirations. If you are someone who has not yet started on building these aspirations, take this opportunity as well to form habits that will eventually lead you towards achieving them.
Dr. BJ Fogg is an American social scientist at Stanford University who specializes in behavior modification and developing what he’s termed as “Tiny Habits.” After reading his book, “TINY HABITS,” I started to employ the techniques he recommends and have experienced tremendous momentum towards achieving my own aspirations. Summarizing the two major takeaways from Dr. Fogg’s book, “Tiny Habits,” he strongly suggests starting VERY small and celebrating every accomplishment along the way. Using a brief example with health and fitness, you may have the general aspiration of wanting to increase your strength. To start very small with this goal, for example, you could create a habit of doing 2 push ups after every bathroom break throughout the day. This may seem incredibly silly or monotonous, but the momentum gained from this achievement may (and almost guaranteed will) create a shift in actions that lead toward the habits necessary to accomplish the aspiration of gaining strength. But most importantly, Dr. Fogg recommends that you celebrate every time you complete the habit of doing those 2 push ups. These celebrations are not massive and can be as simple as doing a little dance or smiling at yourself in the mirror. Essentially, this action followed immediately after completing your habit will ignite the reward system in your brain and encourage you to continue doing this action.
To quote Dr. Fogg directly he states, “Remember that you change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.” So incorporate positive reinforcement whenever you can to build habits that will lead you towards eventually accomplishing your aspirations.