Three months of inactivity and isolation can wreak havoc on your health. If quarantine from COVID-19 has left you feeling sluggish, out of shape, and battling extra pounds — aka the COVID-15 — now’s as good a time as any to kick your health and fitness regime into full gear.
Experts say the ideal way to create change is to choose attainable goals with the understanding that achieving optimal health takes effort and won’t happen overnight.
“Be mindful that it took time to get where you are today, says registered dietician Lori D’Amato of Food and Wellness in Huntington. “So, it will take time to create healthy choices and new habits. Start by deciding what your long-term goals look like and then break it up into smaller, more achievable goals.”
D’Amato suggests addressing your emotional state, as well as health and weight loss goals.
“If we are providing the right foods and working on exercise but our mind is not on the same page — stress, external cues — we may see some extra bumps in the road,” she adds.
Exercising is key to achieving better health and weight loss and is good for the psyche, too, says D’Amato. Cardio is a great starting point, she notes, as it not only raises your heart rate but, “over a prolonged period of time, it starts to release your ‘happy’ neurotransmitters.” Feeling happy can serve as excellent motivation to continue your efforts.
Consistency is key. Be consistent and slowly build upon your routine, for example, adding weight training, D’Amato adds.
Regarding exercise, equally as important to what you do is how you do it, says Kayla Hendrickson, a Huntington nutrition consultant, personal trainer, and co-owner of Brains & Brawn, Inc. It’s all about execution.
“Choose three basic moves and commit to perfecting them,” she advises. “Movement is not much different than learning a new language. It needs to be practiced frequently, correctly, and with detail.”
Choose exercise that you’re comfortable with physically and mentally and reevaluate over time, Hendrickson says. She suggests avoiding high repetition workouts and instead, increasing sets. Providing “ample opportunity to rest ensures that most reps are executed correctly. This is especially important after a lay-off because there is no way to know your body’s peak ability.”
Listen to your body. Your “workout should be stimulating yet should not annihilate,” Hendrickson says.
Achieving better health and fitness is indeed a package deal — a positive mindset, plus exercise, plus nutrition, says Stefani Kavner, a certified holistic health coach at Huntington-based Fit For Life with Stef.
Fuel your body with quality ingredients. To reduce inflammation and restore your body, avoid sugars, white flours and processed foods, Kavner advises. Mind your alcohol intake.
“It turns into glucose in your body and causes systemic inflammation, as well as being a depressant,” she says, adding that junk food should be limited. “Why tempt yourself with food that you are not OK with eating right now?”
“It’s important to ingest nutrient-dense foods so your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to heal and run properly,” Kavner adds. “Starting slowly can look like adding greens three times a day or cutting the gluten out of your diet.”
Include fresh vegetables, proteins including fish, and healthy fats into your diet — and don’t forget H2O, the experts say. Include antioxidant-rich foods, too. They’re “not only beneficial for the body by reducing oxidative stress, but [contain] a powerful antioxidant called polyphenols — found in black tea, coffee, several fruits and vegetables — that has been shown to help stimulate fat breakdown,” D’Amato notes.
Be realistic about your goals and path to achieving them.
“Losing one to two pounds per week is the healthy way to go about weight loss,” for example, notes Kavner.
Avoid fad diets!
“Make being healthy your new normal,” Kavner says. “If this is something you really want for yourself, making gradual changes over time will build momentum toward healthier habits.”
Don’t forget to enjoy some fresh summer air and sunshine, too. It’s good for the soul. Seek support if needed, Kavner says.