Defeat covid blues with a healthier mind and body

Story by Andy Munsterman
Community Ready and Resilient Integrator

Its 2021, and in any “normal” year we would set resolutions to help us reach goals and break bad habits throughout the months ahead. If ever we had a good excuse to not start exercising or getting into a routine, it would be this year. But despite global conditions that limit what we can do, we can choose to make positive changes in our lives, and the key to being successful in changing our habits and setting realistic resolutions this year is to be kind to ourselves and to start small. 

COVID19 has closed the majority of fitness centers off post, and on-post there is a limit to what we can do in the gyms. So, what steps can we take to make sure we have a healthier 2021? How can we take care of our physical and mental health while building a healthy immune system as we wait for immunizations? Here are a few ways to stay fit both physically and mentally in the year ahead.

Go for a walk– The wonderful thing about living in Germany is the abundance of walking trails. Even with COVID restrictions, you can go out for a walk. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends people participate in a walk or other moderate intensity exercise for 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) or more a week for health benefits such as a lowered risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. For weight loss, 250 minutes (about 4 hours) or more of moderate-intensity activity is recommended per week. Exercise does not have to be an all-out effort in order to get the benefits. Of course, if you want to run or bike, those are also healthy options that will allow you to take advantage of the local area’s abundance of trails. 

Socialize -The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has cited evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. This is also an opportunity to catch up with a friend and gain the social benefit of having a workout partner. We all need to make sure we combat isolation and loneliness and stay connected with friends, families, and colleagues. Outdoor activities ensure that we can connect in a safe, responsible way that is also good for our mental and physical health. 

Build a healthy immune system – Research shows that consuming a well-balanced diet, one with sufficient energy to maintain a healthy weight, a focus on grains, fruits, and vegetables to provide sufficient carbohydrate and polyphenols, can reduce exercise-induced inflammation and improve viral protection. When you have to work from the home office, home school, or are employed, it can be hard to stick to a regular meal time. Now is a great time to experiment with healthy recipes, create your own healthy snacks, and to drink more water. Try to make sure you have meal times consistently each day and that you aren’t just waiting until you are hungry or eating from boredom. The same practice applies to sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep with all of your electronic devices muted and avoid excessive alcohol intake and caffeine at least 6 hours prior to going to sleep.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our resiliency in every possible way over the last year, but as we move through 2021, we have the benefit of experience on our side now. We can focus on improving and maintaining our emotional, mental, and physical well-being as we work toward a better new year.