Staying Active in Self-isolation

If you are following the advice of our health experts, then you are probably spending most of your days at home. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, the best way to protect yourself and others is to limit your exposure to the carriers of the virus—other people.  You are probably feeling enough stress from the threat of this lethal disease, but many people are also struggling with job worries and family responsibilities that can make quarantine even more harrowing.

While this self-isolation may help keep you from getting sick from covid-19, there are some risks to remaining inside for extended periods of time. Some of these risks include

  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Bone loss
  • Weakened strength and endurance
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Impaired blood circulation

You may experience a significant decline in your physical and mental wellbeing during any extended period of self-isolation.  Without a strong wellness program in place, this decline could impact your ability to fight off a bout with covid-19 or other serious health risks.

Maintaining Physical Health

Since the goal of remaining in quarantine is to preserve your health, it would be somewhat self-defeating to sacrifice your physical wellbeing while in isolation.  Many people believe that they can’t workout at home without specialized equipment, but that isn’t the case. Besides, if you really want a new Peloton or rowing machine, now may be the perfect time to purchase one.

Before you start a new exercise regimen, it is important to prepare yourself.  You should set some clear goals, incremental steps to achieve them and clearly define your motivations. It is easy to lounge on the couch all day and watch TV, so pick a goal like losing ten pounds or spending time exercising with your children every day to help motivate you.

Don’t push yourself too hard. It is important to not put too much strain on your body. Not only will this lower the risk that you injure yourself and avoid a trip to the doctor, but too much stress on your body could lower your ability to fight off an infection.  So, pick reasonable goals that will maintain your health without putting you at too great of a risk.

Next, you want to pick a routine for yourself.  If you live in a house, you may want to create a circuit around your property to walk a few times.  If your living space is more cramped, you might want to try a yoga or aerobics routine; there are plenty of videos online that can give you a vigorous workout no matter your fitness or experience level.

Once you have found a fitness routine that you enjoy, stick to it.  Try to make it a daily routine; if you need to lower intensity to make it a habit, that is okay. Finding just a few minutes to raise your heart rate a day is usually sufficient to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. It also gives you something to look forward to that can break up the monotony of the day.

You also want to eat healthy while you remain isolated so that you don’t become vulnerable to infection or other health risks. Although it may be difficult to keep your hands off of snacks while you spend hours on the sofa, try to stick to a regular meal schedule. Avoid foods that are high in salt, sugar or fat.  It is also important to keep your immune system in top shape by staying well hydrated; keep a bottle of water with you throughout your exercise routine and the rest of the day.

It is extremely important that you keep to your normal routine insofar as that is possible. For example, if you are on a treatment program for your arthritis or other pain condition, keep at it even in quarantine. That means staying on your medications; if you need refills, many suppliers will mail them to you. Many physical therapists are now using video sessions to monitor their patients.

Keep Up Your Mental Health

It isn’t enough to just perform a mindless fitness routine every day—you also need to maintain your cognitive skills and emotional health. While exercise will help retain brain function, it won’t fill up your whole day. You may be spending hours alone which can take its toll on your mental wellbeing. Here are some mental exercises that can keep you upbeat and thinking.

  • Measured breathing—just ten minutes of paced breathing can help take your mind off of all of your problems and reduce your stress levels.
  • Meditation—one step beyond breathing exercises is mindful meditation which shuts down negative thought patterns and relaxes your body. Mindfulness is also helpful in modulating pain symptom intensity for chronic pain sufferers.
  • Positive social interaction—you may not be able to meet people in person, but you can still make meaningful personal interactions via phone or video calls. If you are with your family at home, be sure to set aside time daily to emotionally support one another.
  • Limit your online exposure—one of the great dangers of surfing the World Wide Web too much is that there is a lot of misinformation and fearmongering online. If you get health information online, make sure you get it from a reputable source. Monitor what children read online and reassure them if they become disturbed by something posted.
  • Good sleep hygiene—many people who remain indoors for too long will have difficulty sleeping. It is important to employ a disciplined sleep schedule including early waking and regular bedtimes. If you do need help falling asleep, avoid digital screens in the hour prior to sleep and try a warm bath to relax you.
  • Bask in the sun—if you have a patio, spend some time outdoors every day.  This will help maintain your bone strength and vitamin D production, and it should help you maintain a normal day/night cycle. If you don’t have access to a private space outdoors, open your windows to let fresh air and sunlight in.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information.