It’s cold outside — and COVID-19 is still literally plaguing the community — so many people are trapped in their houses and apartments.
People still need to exercise despite all this, but the current climate presents unique challenges. The pandemic has an had impact on people’s health, including among those who have not been sickened with COVID-19. It has struck people’s physical and mental wellbeing, but there are ways to look after one’s health even in quarantine.
Geary County Extension Agent Deb Andres has some tips for those who are trapped at home during this time but who still want to keep in shape.
Andres suggests people set an alarm — on their phone, their clock or whatever else they have available — to remind them to get up and move around every half hour. At the absolute minimum, she said, people should leave their chairs once every 30 minutes, even if it’s just to do a random task or stretch their legs.
“Find something and put something on your daily schedule every day that’s going to make you move more than just your hands or your head,” Andres said. “It could be housekeeping, it could be cleaning out a closet, it could be washing your drapes, doing some laundry. Just anything like that.”
Andres has experienced the challenges of staying active while homebound.
She was recently quarantined with her three teenaged sons after her husband caught COVID-19 and found herself needing to find ways to stay active while maintaining her usual workload and feeding her children who normally eat school lunches.
Food is an issue in and of itself for people who have become more sedentary due to being trapped at home. People need to be cognizant of their nutrition and eat smaller portions when they’re sedentary versus when they’re more active. Eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and smaller amounts of food are one way to stay healthy during quarantine.
“Increase fruits and vegetables, keep your whole grains going, stay away from fried foods and just control your portion size,” Andres said.
Andres, for her part, has taken to eating fruit for lunch every day. She has also kept herself on her toes by relocating her home office space around the house at least three times each day. That way, she’s not sitting in the same chair all day every day, looking at the same scenery all the time.
“That’s one of the things I’m doing to handle quarantine,” Andres said. “I don’t stay put in one location.”
People can do traditional workouts, as well. Something as small as a couple of cans of tomato sauce or a bag of powdered sugar can be used as free weights for people who aren’t accustomed to working out.
“A lot of the kitchen things, because they’re measured by weight, are good ways to do that,” Andres said.
It doesn’t have to be an intense workout, especially for senior citizens and others who may not be able to exercise vigorously.
“Really, don’t start anything too vigorous if you haven’t talked to you doctor about it,” Andres said. “That could be just a phone call to the nurse to verify if you’re going to start something up different than what you’ve been doing.”
Stretch first, in any case. For people who have been sitting a lot, Andres encourages them to stretch their lower backs, shoulders and necks before exercise.
Chair exercise and chair stretching is an option for older people who may have poor balance or be unable to do more intense workouts, Andres said. At www.geary.k-state.edu/health-home-family/health-wellness.html, people can find resources for such exercises.
It’s also important to look after one’s mental health and the mental health of family members.
Andres encourages people to make contact with high-risk family members who are trapped inside their residences, even if only by text or through brief phone calls, to uplift them during a time when they might be struggling.
“Surround yourself with positive things,” she said. “If you’re going to read, read something that’s uplifting. If you’re going to listen to music, listen to something that’s uplifting and just try to keep that positive attitude strong as much as you can, because there’s too many things going on right now that will drag us in the other direction. When you’re suffering emotionally and mentally, it’s going to show itself physically. And it’s the same way with physical (ailments). When you’re suffering physically, it can show itself emotionally and mentally as well. It’s all connected — all those different types of health — mental, emotional, cognitive. All those health pieces are connected and one affects the other pretty dramatically if you’ve got something serious going on.”