Keeping up with a COVID fitness routine isn’t easy. Most people have had their daily lives and healthy habits at least somewhat disrupted due to ongoing restrictions and precautions. The good news is that while the current reality has made being healthy more difficult in some ways, it has also created unique opportunities in others. How can we best maximize positive health and fitness opportunities while minimizing losses during these challenging times?

Nutrition Opportunities

One of the positive results of current realities is that more people are cooking at home. Less hustle and bustle and social events have allowed many people to slow down and really focus on making healthier, more nutritious meals. With more time at home some are also feeling more in control of their diets and eating habits and reporting less grab-and-go and fast food eating. Slowing down has also allowed many people to do more meal planning which often leads to a more healthful and balanced diet. And for the most part less eating out leads to better portion control and more mindful eating.

Nutrition Obstacles

For many people the quarantine 15 is not just a meme, but a reality of their current circumstances. Possible cons of the current situation is eating more take-out and delivered food, which usually includes large, high calorie portions. Also being home more means constant access to the refrigerator, which can lead to lots of snacking. Emotional eating is also more likely to happen as it is common and normal to use food to soothe emotions during uncertain times. There is also a very human tendency to indulge when one is dealing with current  challenges, restrictions and uncertainties as food is something most of us feel in control of and enjoy. 

Making the Best of Nutritional Opportunities

Focusing on really enjoying your meals—sometimes called mindful eating—is primary pleasure that can bring joy and calmness during turbulent times. Many people are finding that watching cooking shows can be a calming alternative to the doom and gloom news and help you pick up new skills and recipe opportunities. Alex H.—an accountant working from home—found a silver lining by creating a “pandemic survival cookbook” as a way to document her favorite recipes, a keepsake of the times and even as a potential holiday gift for her friends and family. 

Exercise Opportunities

As the great kettlebell shortage of 2020 taught us, many more people are working out at home. Designing or finding a COVID fitness routine from home is a proactive way to take charge of your fitness life. Many more people are also subscribing to online workout platforms and doing guided routines remotely. Walking, jogging and cycling are also on the rise as more people turn to outdoor exercise as a safer option then indoor options. Many fitness trainers have adapted by offering virtual training online which works well for some people. Home workouts mean not commuting to the gym, which can be a real time saver for many, allowing them to spend more time being active.

Exercise Obstacles

With staying home more, many of us are getting a lot less “NEAT” or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This is the everyday movement most of us took for granted such as walking from your car to any place you were going or walking around your place of work. Less “NEAT” tends to slow our overall metabolism and can lead to weight gain. Many social exercisers are finding it difficult to get motivated to workout at home or outside on their own. Another challenge is that some workouts are difficult or impossible to replicate in home settings such as power lifting or swimming. People who stayed motivated by training for competitive events are also finding it more difficult to stay on track. Also, many people are experiencing unexpected situations—like kids staying home and doing their schooling remotely—that make carving out time for exercise even more difficult. Many people are also working a lot more or a lot less, both situations which can make keeping a balanced fitness life difficult. 

Making the Best of Exercise Opportunities

Understand that a COVID fitness routine from home is very challenging for most people and begin to troubleshoot ways that it can work for you. This involves spending some time reflecting on why your prior attempts haven’t been fruitful and finding new alternatives. Would setting u an online video call with a fitness friend for a virtual workout meetup help you be more accountable and have some fun in the meantime? Is there a way to reduce distractions and make your home workout environment more inviting? Julie—a hospice chaplain—found that meeting with a trainer online helped her overcome her fear of strength training and together they designed a home based workout that she enjoys.  Taking time to clear out clutter can also go a long way in helping your home fitness routine become a healthy habit. If you prefer guided workouts, what if you tried one new platform a week until you hound one that is the perfect fit for you? If challenges are what lights your fitness fire, what about creating a virtual 5k or other event with friends and family. Bonus points for creating and sending out matching t-shirts for your event. 

Mental Health Opportunities 

For introverted type people, those who had long commutes or other people who did not enjoy their previous work environments more time at home can be a mental health blessing. Individuals with a healthy home environment with adequate space to combine work and living may find that more staying at home can enhance feelings of self-control and well-being. Also, those who are able to work from home and maintain their standard of living may find their mental health is staying mostly balanced. With less distractions and entertainment options some people are choosing to actively focus on improving their mental health through starting practices such as meditation, yoga or online therapy.

Mental Health Obstacles 

No matter what your circumstance we have all lost opportunities that helped us to stay mentally healthy. For people who lost jobs or work in high risk industries—such as healthcare or frontline service—the pandemic can be a severe mental health challenge. Far fewer social opportunities can also take their toll as human beings are social creatures and being around other people helps us to regulate our moods and increase our sense of safety and wellbeing. People who have been personally touched by COVID-19—by having the virus or being close to someone impacted by it—may also be dealing with grief when it’s difficult to get a hug may also be enduring special mental health challenges. 

Making the Best of Mental Health Opportunities

Social isolation and the uncertain future are both real threats to mental health, so being proactive is important. The key to improving your mental health during the pandemic is being radically honest about how you are feeling and intentional about finding strategies to cope. Susan—a court reporter—started a daily gratitude journal to help her stay focused on the positive and has found that after only a week she is feeling better and less anxious. Josh L—a computer programmer—found that setting up weekly online gaming sessions with his friends gave him something to look forward to and helped him feel connected to his community. The CDC recommends taking regular media breaks, having a plan for getting sick so you and your family will know what to do and finding safe ways to stay connected to family and friends. Seeking professional therapy or spiritual support can also be helpful. For serious mental health situations call 911 or a crisis hotline (1-800-273-TALK).

What are you doing to adapt your routines and stay physically and mentally healthy?