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COVID-19: News and campus updates | University policies and resources

Staying Healthy During Coronavirus Pandemic

Practicing yoga remotely

April 15, 2020

Danielle BrittainInterim Associate Dean in the College of Natural and Health Sciences Danielle Brittain, Ph.D., shares tips and resources for staying fit and well as you stay home.

Exercise and Take Breaks

  • For children under 17, the recommendations are 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day, with three of those days focusing on muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises.
  • Adults should get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
  • Moderate physical activity is defined as something you do when you can carry on a conversation, but it's a little more difficult to talk. So, envision a slight heart rate increase, breathing a little harder, but you can still talk to whoever you're engaging with.
  • Vigorous physical activity, on the other hand, is engaging in activity where you really can't carry on a conversation.
  • Practice safe physical distancing of six feet or more when you are outside. And you should wear a hat, your sunscreen for some protection. Keep a mask on hand for when passing people.
  • Take breaks once each hour. If you’re working at home or doing your coursework at home you’ll be more productive and you can focus better if you take breaks and are active.

A Sampling of Fitness Apps and Videos:

  • Fitbit or Garmin apps may help you connect with a virtual group where others can help keep you accountable and motivated.
  • Down Dog (Downdogapp.com) is offering free access until May 1; and until July 1st for all students and teachers (K-12 and college).
  • Strava (Strava.com) for finding different running and cycling routes.
  • Zombies, Run! (Zombiesrungame.com) literally feels like zombies are running behind you and chasing you.
  • POPSUGAR is a popular free YouTube fitness channel with hundreds of free videos for cardio, yoga and Pilates.
  • Moovlee, for kids, is also a YouTube channel with options for getting kids to meditate, to do yoga, to be active.

Practice Mindfulness and Meditate

Jon Kabat-Zinn really helped to popularize the concept of mindfulness. It's the basic human ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we're doing, and without being overreactive or overwhelmed by what's going on around us.

We’re in some really intense, challenging times right now. But many of us are still rushing through our daily lives, and we're forgetting to be mindful of what we have in front of us, and what is wonderful and special around us.

So, meditation is exploring. It's not a fixed destination. Your head doesn't become vacuum free of thought or you're completely undistracted. It's a place where each and every moment is momentous. When we meditate, we venture into the workings of our minds.

I've often heard people say they've tried to meditate. They just can't sit still, or maybe it's too noisy. I get it. I understand that. But if you slow things down just a bit, you'll reduce tension. Your body will have a reduction in the stress hormone called cortisol, and cortisol has been shown to be very damaging to our bodies in terms of physical health, including increased stroke and obesity.

Meditation can actually change your brain. When you meditate, over time you can thicken the posterior cingulate cortex in your brain, causing more focus and self confidence in yourself. You can thicken your left hippocampus, increasing the ability to regulate emotion, learn and remember. You can also increase your empathy, compassion, and perspective by thickening the temporoparietal junction. You can shrink the amygdala, decreasing stress and likelihood of fight or flight.

Meditation app to try: Headspace (Headspace.com) or Ten Percent Happier (tenpercent.com)

Eat Well

We know that physical activity and nutrition go hand-in-hand. We know that we must fill our body in healthy ways to function better both mentally and physically.

  • Drink plenty of water. I often use ginger and lemon and a touch of honey in hot water to get some benefits of antioxidants, but you can choose whatever makes you feel good. If you have a hard time remembering to hydrate, you can create a log or chart, maybe on your fridge, to be mindful that you need to drink more water; or maybe get a friend or someone in your household to remind you.
  • Include plant-based foods. Strive for a colorful plate, with fewer “brown” foods. Beans are more economical. For some of you, meat might be more expensive right now, and thus, an important way to get protein is through other sources such as beans and legumes. Quinoa is a good source of protein.
  • Try to reduce your sugar intake. Americans consume 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, and it depletes our energy and focus. If you have a lull in the afternoon, maybe grab a healthy snack, go for a walk or meditate, get your mind focused again, but take a break.
  • Have fun with cooking. Involve your kids, families, roommates, and look in the cabinet for those random items that you know are back there, but you haven't been eating and create a masterpiece.
  • Use every part of your food purposefully. For example, don't throw away the stems of cilantro. These have good nutrients and the best taste of the cilantro. If you bake a chicken, don't throw away the bones, use them to make a chicken broth or a bone broth so that you can use that for another recipe.
  • Moderation, moderation, moderation. Most of us like snacks and drinks. Just remember not to overdo it.
  • YouTube channel:The Domestic Geek offers some really good recipes.

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