Tag Archives: coronavirus

Healthy for the Holidays

Now that Thanksgiving has past, the holiday season is in full swing. At the same time, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has changed virtually every aspect of our lives. If that’s not enough, this is also cold and flu season. In addition, the holiday season itself, with hectic schedules, stress, and lack of sleep, can weaken your immune system making you more susceptible to getting sick. The good news is that there is much you can do to keep yourself and the people close to you healthy for the holidays.

For starters, following the familiar recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will help prevent colds and the flu, too. This includes physical distancing and wearing a mask anytime you are close to others, especially indoors. Another basic step in preventing sickness is to wash your hands regularly. Soap and water is best, and there is no additional benefit in using an antibacterial soap. If you can’t wash your hands, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an acceptable alternative. Keep in mind that hand sanitizers don’t actually clean your hands and aren’t as effective if your hands are dirty.

Masks and physical distancing are important because SARS-CoV-2, influenza, and common cold viruses are spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks loudly, or sings, so avoiding close contact with people who are sick—or who may be sick—is important. If you are sick, it is essential that you stay away from others as much as you can. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or cough or sneeze onto your sleeve to help keep the germs from spreading through the air or on your hands.

People who participate in moderate exercise on a daily basis have fewer and less severe illnesses than people who aren’t regularly active. This is because exercise has the effect of stimulating the immune system, making it better able to respond when you are exposed to cold or flu viruses. Presumably, the same is true for the virus that causes COVID-19, so being active every day is essential for the health of your immune system…and the rest of you!

Good nutrition is also necessary for optimal immune system function. Deficiencies in certain nutrients can have a negative effect on immune function, so eating a balanced diet is essential. That said, there is no support for “boosting” the immune system by taking high doses of vitamins, minerals, or other supplements, despite the claims made by supplement companies. The best advice is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, drink plenty of water, and avoid highly processed foods, especially those that contain added sugar.

You can get benefits from two more common-sense recommendations: getting adequate sleep and reducing stress. Poor sleep habits are associated with suppressed immunity and more frequent illness. High levels of stress increase susceptibility to viruses and can lead to more sick days from work or school. Stress and poor sleep habits tend to occur together, creating a double negative effect on the immune system.

By taking these steps, you can improve your chances of celebrating the holidays in good health. As a bonus, eating a healthy diet, exercising every day, managing your stress, and getting enough sleep will give you a head start on what are likely to be New Year’s resolutions.

Working or learning from home? Don’t forget about recess!

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, many adults and children are settling into a new routine of working and learning from home. Children and their new teachers—often parents and grandparents—are finding ways to complete schoolwork at home, often with limited guidance or resources. For people working from home, that means finding ways to be productive, often while caring for and homeschooling children.

photo-of-young-girl-riding-bike-by-sidewalk-2537101 copy

Photo by G Drama from Pexels

Most teachers and schools have provided assignments that cover the major subjects kids would do in school: English, math science, and social studies. It is critical to continue learning these subjects even when schools are closed. But a school day also includes other subjects like art, music, and PE. Unfortunately, projects for these subjects are probably not included in the distance learning resources provided by schools.

Far from a distraction, opportunities to be creative and physically active in school support and enhance learning and should be included at home, too. Research shows that physical activity can positively affect several factors that are related to academic performance. These include skills (attention, concentration, and memory), behaviors (classroom conduct and homework completion), and academic achievement (test scores and grades).

Regular physical activity is also essential for good health, growth, and physical development, including maintaining a healthy body weight. This last point is important given the epidemic of obesity and related health problems in children, including “adult” diseases like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Physical activity is also a great way to reduce feelings of stress, something that is especially relevant now.

Current recommendations call for all children to get at least 60 minutes of activity per day. This can include activity at school from physical education classes, recess, other classroom activities as well as games, sports, and unstructured play. All of these opportunities for activity can be part of a school day at home. Even if you aren’t a PE teacher, giving kids time to be active and play is critical to their health, learning, and wellbeing, so make sure you include recess in your home school plan.

Almost any activity counts, even if it is not structured. Active play, practicing sports, walking the dog, and running or bicycling around the neighborhood are excellent options. Given social distancing recommendations, it’s best to do these activities individually or as a family and to avoid public places like playgrounds. You can find ideas for PE activities at home online, many of which would make a good workout for adults, too. Even taking short breaks to get up and move throughout the day can have health and cognitive benefits

This isn’t just for kids—adults need recess, too! Prolonged sitting in your home office has been linked to negative health effects that are similar to those of not exercising. Even among people who do exercise, those who spend more time sitting tend to have more health problems than those who are more active during the day.

Taking short breaks at work also improves attention and productivity. In fact, many time management and productivity techniques include periods of focused work separated by breaks. Since most work is done sitting at a desk or in front of a computer, these breaks can be used to get up and move. Together with dedicating time every day for exercise, these activity breaks can contribute to meeting physical activity recommendations and can add up to serious health benefits.


drparrsays blog footer

Yes, you can still go to the gym! Here’s how to do it safely.

The spread of coronavirus and COVID-19 is a very real and urgent health concern right now. But focusing on hand washing and social distancing doesn’t mean you should neglect other aspects of your health, including exercise.

Yes, you can still go to the gym! Here’s how to do it and reduce your risk of spreading coronavirus (and other viruses and bacteria, too).

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after your workout. If that’s not an option, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) is okay, too.

  2. Use the provided disinfectant spray to wipe down equipment, including weights, before and after you use it. Many people are good about wiping sweat from benches, seats, and other equipment but skip cleaning barbells, dumbbells, and other hand-held gear. Make sure you spray and wipe thoroughly.

  3. As much as you can, keep your distance from other people. This may mean skipping group exercise classes for now. You can always find alternatives—a session on a bike on the fitness floor instead of a spin class, for example.

  4. If your gym closes or if you decide not to go, you can still get a good workout at home. If you need ideas, try one of the many mobile apps that will guide you through a workouts, some using nothing more than your body weight.
  5. This would be a great time to go for a walk, run, or bike ride outdoors. Even if you go with a friend, the risk of virus spread is lower outdoors, especially if you keep a few feet between you. Plus there are physical and psychological benefits to outdoor exercise beyond the activity itself.
  6. If you are sick, please stay home! You can still do light activity with mild symptoms, but it’s best to take the day off if you have a cough or fever.

drparrsays blog footer