Mental Health

Diet and exercise tips for staying healthy at home

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The Covid-19 pandemic has brought change and uncertainty to our daily lives and routines, and we’re here to help you stay healthy. Self care has never been more important, for so many reasons. Taking care of your physical and emotional health means you’re better equipped to handle the inevitable stress of these difficult times. And if you’re caring for others, taking care of yourself is the first step in ensuring you can be there for the people you care about.

Diet and exercise are an important part of the puzzle when it comes to staying healthy, especially now. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can reduce the effect of stress on your body, which boosts immunity in the long-run. Besides, physical and mental health are intertwined so taking care of both is a win-win. Let’s start with how you can stay active if you’re stuck indoors.

Even if you weren’t an avid gym-goer before, you were likely getting some amount of exercise by simply going about your daily routine: commuting to and from work, catching the bus, climbing stairs at an office. Since our normal routines are no more, we have to resort to exercising while social distancing, or working up a sweat at home. Both are possible!

"The main thing with any exercise routine is to do something you enjoy that doesn’t feel like a chore,” said Dr. Jacobson, Alpha’s Chief Medical Officer. “You definitely have to do what you like."

For Dr. Jacobson, that’s sit-ups on her exercise ball in the morning. That’s one example of an easy, at-home workout that incorporates a bodyweight exercise: sit-ups. Bodyweight exercises are a good option these days because they don’t require equipment. When you’re doing crunches, push-ups, planks or squats, your own body weight creates resistance against gravity, which works your muscles. Even though Dr. Jacobson used an exercise ball, you can easily do bodyweight exercises without it.

Or if you want to spice up your home workouts, you can order exercise equipment – like an exercise ball, resistance bands, foam rollers or a yoga mat – online.

If you want to and can leave your home, taking a walk, run or bike ride around your neighborhood are a good option, as long as you’re adhering to social distancing and wearing a cloth face covering, as recommended by the CDC.

“I think getting outside with fresh air is hugely important during this pandemic,” said Dr. Jacobson. Aside from walking or running, still spend some time outdoors if you can, even just in your front or back yard. Besides, exercise is not confined to a workout regime.

Movement can be simple and woven throughout your day. For example, set a timer to take a walk around your home every so often. Take a walk during phone calls or virtual meetings that don’t require you to be at your workstation. Gardening, dancing to your favorite song, playing with children, and even housework can count as exercise. Anything that gets you moving is beneficial these days, so get creative with it.

The same goes for cooking during lockdown: be creative and go with what you enjoy. Find recipes with your favorite foods. Replicate restaurant meals or dishes from childhood. For those who naturally enjoy cooking, you can experiment with old recipes or whip up new dishes.

Think of this as an opportunity to integrate cooking into your self care routine. Carve out time to enjoy the process. Create a comfortable environment by organizing your cooking space and set the mood with music. Or if your intention is to get in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible, stick to simpler dishes. Either way, in the end you’ll have a hearty, home-cooked meal. No matter what you end up cooking, be sure you’re getting the variety of nutrients that you need for a balanced diet.

Since going outside requires extra precaution these days, you can ease your stress by being prepared and organized when you shop for ingredients. Grocery hours might be limited and food stocks uncertain in some places, so you’ll want to be intentional and make the most of each shopping trip, whether you’re going out in person or having groceries delivered. Plan meals and grocery lists ahead so that you can get everything you need in one go.

Of what’s available, go for healthy food options with a long shelf life like eggs, beans, grains and canned fish. Frozen vegetables are a good option for getting nutrients without worrying about spoilage.

Lastly, connect, connect connect. Staying connected creates a sense of community, making both diet and exercise more manageable while we’re staying at home.

"If you’re not living alone, I would try to involve others in the cooking routine,” Dr. Jacobson said. Cooking can become a household activity, a time for bonding and relaxation. Or if you’re far from loved ones, you can still cook together over a video call.

Leverage technology and social media to turn cooking and working out into a fun group activity. You can follow along to virtual workouts and recipes or participate in workout challenges and dinner parties. There are endless ways to connect online: YouTube, Facebook, Zoom, Skype, Facetime and so much more. Technology can also hold you accountable to your goals. You can set a reminder to workout, count steps with wearable technologies like Fitbit, or join online cooking communities to share recipe ideas and find solidarity.

If your daily stress is becoming too much to handle, don’t hesitate to seek help. Alpha’s team of experts is here to provide mental health treatment for your needs. You can get consultations, talk therapy, and medications, all from the comfort of your home. You don’t have to struggle or be stressed on your own. We’re here to help.

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