As of today, it’s been approximately three weeks since I began sheltering in place. In other words, I’ve been staying at home and only leaving for essential activities (ex. shopping for groceries and toiletries, bartering for toilet paper, etc.).
In response to the pandemic, I’ve made a few practical and health-related life adjustments that I thought were worth sharing. Before I do, however, I think it’s important to build some context around what exactly I (and likely you, too) have been experiencing as a result of these new circumstances. I’ve observed two distinguishing experiences, which are as follows:
1. A More Sedentary Lifestyle
It goes without saying that I’ve been much more physically inactive over the past few weeks at home. For perspective, I take anywhere between 12,000 – 15,000 steps on a typical work day, and in current state, I would consider half of that amount a valiant accomplishment.
Several studies, such as this one conducted by the American Heart Association, highlight sedentary behavior as one of the leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. As much as I may be hyperbolizing the scenario, I think it’s important to understand the implications of prolonged physical inactivity compounded over time.
2. A Disruption in Routine
My average work day is decently regimented: I wake up, shower and get ready, review my calendar and daily objectives, commute to the office, work, eat lunch, continue working, eat dinner, endure my daily physical sufferance at Orangetheory Fitness, commute home, shower, relax, and sleep.
As you might expect, this daily regimen has been completely quelled over the past few weeks, and I’ve gone through a fair amount of routine iteration since then. In retrospect, I definitely downplayed the severity of COVID-19 earlier on, which caused me to be less proactive in transitioning to a new routine.
Based on these observations and a few others, here are 4 health changes I’ve adopted in response to COVID-19:
1. Eating Less
I’ve been eating less, and encourage you to do the same. This proposition is legitimately practical advice, and not an indirect recommendation to lose weight (unless of course that’s your objective).
The idea here is based on the concept of Total Daily Energy Expenditure, abbreviated as TDEE. In simple terms, TDEE is the number calories you burn each day and, by extension, the number of calories you need to consume each day to maintain your current weight. That said, if you’re someone like me who is now working from home and limiting their time spent gallivanting in Mother Nature, then your TDEE has likely decreased slightly, even while maintaining typical exercise.
As a result, you simply do not require as much energy, or calories, to maintain your current weight. Hence, consume less calories than you normally would and you’ll also avoid contracting the COVID-15.
Check out this tool to calculate your TDEE.
2. Shorter, More Frequent, and Dispersed Workouts
Within my (past) routine, my day was typically broken up by my commute between home, the office, and the gym. By contrast, unless we’re counting the few steps between my bed, computer desk, and yoga mat, I no longer travel between any of those locations.
As a way of re-introducing an element of regime into my lifestyle, I’ve been opting for two to three shorter workouts (20 – 30mins each) allocated evenly throughout the day. While I’m normally accustomed to a single, nightly, hour-long, and painstaking can of whoop ass, I’ve enjoyed this short-term modification, and its been a good opportunity to engage in other, less conventional forms of exercise like flexibility training and breath work.
A few of my favorite resources include the following:
- Tom Merrick (YouTube): Flexibility and bodyweight training
- Exercise Snacks by Joe Holder (Instagram): Quick bodyweight exercises designed specifically for short time blocks
- Orangetheory Fitness (YouTube): Obviously
- Breathwrk (App): Guided breathing exercises
3. Cutting Out Alcohol Completely
There could not be a more important time to maintain a strong immune system. I’m also aware that significant negative effects on immunity levels are typically associated with excessive drinking vs. light or moderate, although my risk profile generally leans towards aversion, so I’m opting to cut my losses here.
While this measure may seem overly cautious, it’s also temporary, and an appropriate excuse to practice sobriety in exchange for decreasing your risk of illness.
4. Vitamin D via Supplements and Food Sources
In adopting a lifestyle oddly similar to that of a maximum security prison inmate, being sequestered indoors has been sub-optimal in getting sufficient amounts of exposure to sunlight. However, I’ve learned that it’s relatively easy to get your daily recommended intake of vitamin D (600 IU for most folks).
The most straightforward and surefire method is through supplementation, but other than that, below are three common food sources:
- Fatty fish (ex. 447 IU per 3oz of salmon)
- Egg yolks (37 IU per yolk)
- Mushrooms (7 IU per 100g)
Personally, I have been taking a daily supplement that contains 2,000 IU, in addition to consuming more of the foods above.
The common thread among what I’ve adopted in response to COVID-19 is in taking extra care of my health and wellbeing.
Whether it’s practicing sobriety, adopting a more nutrient-dense diet, being more deliberate with physical activity, or otherwise, this pandemic has generally taught me to value my own mortality even more so than I already do. I posit that we’ll all come out of this experience incrementally more grateful for it as well.