The COVID ‘15’: Staying Healthy and Informed during a Pandemic

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When the world came to an abrupt halt in early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, some people who had been keeping up with a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition and exercise, slid out of these habits. This happened for a variety of reasons, such as lack of access to exercise equipment, stress, and changes in eating, sleeping or alcohol consumption. Food insecurity may also have played a role when many people in the U.S. lost their jobs during this time.

Almost two years later, it’s now quite common to hear people discussing the so-called “COVID 15.” Akin to the concept of the college “freshman 15,” “COVID 15” refers to having gained weight during the COVID-19 quarantine. About 42% of adults in the U.S. say that they have gained more weight than intended during the pandemic, with an average increase of 29 pounds. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than 30% of the adult population in the U.S. is categorized as obese. The severity and risks associated with COVID-19 increase as a person’s body mass index creeps up to the obese range.

In their pre-COVID-19 lives, many people had a lot of “hidden” exercise built into their routines that changed during lockdowns and quarantines. For example, a commuter who walked to a bus or train stop now has the very short commute of the distance between a bedroom and a home office. As the world transitions to a new normal—which may include permanently working remotely for many employees—it is important to rediscover a healthy lifestyle. That includes access to information about physical and mental health.

To navigate these challenging times, look for resources that can help encourage and guide you to a healthy path. One example is CDC’s website, which provides information about physical activity that you can do while physical distancing and explains how physical activity benefits the body. It is also very important to note the mental health benefits of exercise.

Other tips to improve your physical, mental and social well-being include:

·  Reincorporate activities such as stretching, walking or yoga into your routine, especially if you no longer have a hidden exercise routine.

·  Maintain access to social networks and support systems.

·  Maintain your mental health with therapy, journaling, meditation or taking time for relaxing hobbies.

·  Schedule appointments for an annual physical exam with your doctor and discuss what type of exercise is appropriate for your age and ability level.

 Now more than ever, it’s important to stay active to stay healthy and get rid of the dreaded COVID 15.

Kaila Noland is a PhD candidate at University of Maryland, Baltimore in the molecular medicine program. Her research is centered around skeletal muscle physiology and metabolism. Noland is the vice president of the university’s student government association. 

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