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Physical health can’t be on back burner

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many of our daily routines, making it easy to put healthy habits on the back burner. We can still make physical health a priority in our day-to-day routine by taking care of our health, engaging in physical activity, getting adequate sleep, and eating healthy. (U.S. Air Force graphic by David Perry)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many of our daily routines, making it easy to put healthy habits on the back burner. We can still make physical health a priority in our day-to-day routine by taking care of our health, engaging in physical activity, getting adequate sleep, and eating healthy. (U.S. Air Force graphic by David Perry)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many of our daily routines, making it easy to put healthy habits on the back burner. And it can be especially difficult if you’re working from or home or caring for other family members – or both. As we continue to cope, we can still make physical health a priority in our day-to-day routine by taking care of our health, engaging in physical activity, getting adequate sleep, and eating healthy.

Healthcare maintenance. Even amid a pandemic, it’s critical to keep up with preventive care like annual checkups, immunizations, and health screenings. You can continue taking care of your health care needs by taking medications as prescribed and managing any chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and others. Be sure to reach out to your healthcare provider with any physical and mental health concerns and ask about availability for telehealth appointments.

Stay active. Regular physical activity can boost the immune system, prevent weight gain, reduce stress and anxiety and improve sleep. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and at least 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity each week. To move more and sit less, you can start with 5-10 minute intervals of activities like walking, biking, online fitness classes, and yard work. Muscle-strengthening activities can include using weight equipment, resistance bands, or body weight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups to work the major muscle groups. You should consult with your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise routine and work to slowly increase duration and intensity of exercise as tolerated.

Adequate sleep. Good sleep is essential to your overall health, especially during a time of constant change. Lack of sleep duration or quality can suppress our immune system, brain function, mood and general mental health, all while increasing stress. The CDC recommends adults age 18-60 years get seven or more hours of sleep per night. You can establish healthy sleep habits by keeping a consistent sleep schedule, making you bedroom quiet and relaxing, avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon or evening, and turning off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. If sleep problems persist, contact your healthcare provider.  

Healthy nutrition. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat and work on building healthy eating habits one goal at a time. The USDA recommends following a healthy eating pattern by consuming a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, a variety of protein foods, healthy fats and oils, and limiting foods high in saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium. Involve the whole family with weekly meal planning, grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals at home.65

In addition to these suggestions, be sure to practice CDC guidance on social distancing, self-care, self-quarantine, wearing of cloth masks when social distancing is not possible and talking with your healthcare provider about any concerns you may have regarding your health.