Quarantine Quandary: How to Stay Healthy at Home

COVID-19 has completely changed the face of the world, leaving millions of us wondering how to stay healthy at home. We are used to having routine access to gyms and fitness facilities 24/7 so the radical shift to having no outside facilities or equipment at all has been jarring. That’s why now is an important time to double down on activities that promote health and wellness both physically and mentally. The most important elements of maintaining health and wellness. With that in mind, here are some physical therapist verified things you can do to stay healthy at home.

One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy at home is maintain proper nutrition. It might be tempting to chow down on ramen noodles and pizza rolls while you’re stuck inside but making sure you stick to a healthy diet is key to staying well. Dr. Stephen Clark, PT, DPT, suggests starting a food journal in order to track what you’re eating, especially if you are in your home for days at a time. Without tracking, it’s easy to forget about what you had for breakfast or that not-so-healthy snack you had earlier, and then overeat without realizing it.

“Nutrition is a key factor in improving wellness, especially in these difficult times. Starting a food journal can promote mindfulness in your eating to limit excessive calorie intake and help you choose better sources of nutrition.”

– Dr. Stephen Clark, PT, DPT

Be sure that your diet adheres to data-backed standards of nutrition. The Center for Disease Control has a well-researched database available containing information from guidelines on how much water you should be drinking to exercising for people of all fitness levels.

Another important element of staying healthy at home is ensuring that you get an adequate amount of rest and staying on a sleep schedule, even if you have a laxer routine throughout your day. According to Healthline, poor sleep can contribute to a number of negative effects, including weight gain, difficulty concentrating, and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Your judgement, social skills, and ability to effectively exercise and burn calories may also be affected. The best way to make sure your sleep stays consistent is to stick to a sleep routine, preferably the same one you maintain during your normal daily schedule. It’s also a good practice to avoid using any screens such as phones, tablets, or computers for one hour before bedtime and especially while in bed. These electronic devices emit blue light from their screens that can stimulate wakefulness and suppress melatonin production, thus keeping you awake when you should be sound asleep. You should also limit large volumes of liquid two hours before bedtime in order to avoid excessive waking in the middle of the night, which can seriously interrupt your sleep. Adults typically require 8 – 10 hours of sleep to stay within a healthy range of rest.

Perhaps the most crucial activity to ensure you stay healthy at home, however, is movement and exercise. A long-standing battle cry of physical therapists is “movement is medicine,” which has never been truer than during this outbreak. Much like during a normal day at the office, it can be easy to get sucked into your work and forget to take a break from the computer screen. Combine this with a lack of access to exercise facilities, parks, etc. and it’s easier than ever to slip into movement stagnation. Dr. Ed Foring, PT, DPT, suggests practicing intentional movement throughout your workday, making sure to get at least a two-minute break to walk and stretch every half hour during your workdays. A good habit, especially during times when you work from home, is to participate in moderate exercise during your lunch break. This will not only provide all the standard benefits of regular exercise, but also invigorate you for the rest of the workday. The physical and mental benefits of exercise and movement are well-documented, and include improved mood, reduced anxiety and depression, increased energy, improved productivity, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced risk of mortality, low back pain relief, and improved blood sugar control, especially for diabetes, among others.

“Being physically active is good for you – not just for your body, but also for your mind. Reduced social interaction and a lack of leaving the home are bound to put some strain on your mood state, so making sure you take opportunities to be active throughout the day are incredibly important in order to maintain good mental health.”

– Dr. Ed Foring, PT, DPT

You may not have weights or other exercise equipment available at home, but don’t worry – something as simple as a full gallon of water or a few canned goods can work just as well. Foring also suggests some common household activities that can help get your body moving, including:

• Mopping floors, burning up to 170 calories per hour
• Sweeping, burns up to 156 calories per hour
• Cleaning surfaces, burns up to 136 calories per hour
• Vacuuming, burns up to 170 calories per hour
• Carrying groceries, burns up to 440 calories per hour
• Ironing, burns up to 80 calories per hour

So, what’s the most important part of staying healthy at home? The answer is a common element in all the factors discussed here – a routine. Maintaining your routines, even during this unprecedented time, will make sure that once the metaphorical smoke has cleared, you’ll still be healthy and ready to return to normal. If you’re in pain or experiencing symptoms that can’t be alleviated simply by diet and exercise, we can offer physical therapy treatment via telehealth or in-clinic to help you alleviate your aches, pains, or strains.

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