COVID-19 and the Quarantine
The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is the opportunity it gives us to slow down and take a look at our health and lifestyle. Many of us are stuck at home with very little to do or entertain ourselves with, and the disruption of life that is being caused by the coronavirus is forcing many of us to adapt. However, this is a great opportunity for self-improvement.
This is a great time to point out that diet and exercise can help to boost your immune system in a measurable way. As a matter of fact, even a small amount of exercise can help to maintain your immune system while we are all locked indoors or practicing social distancing. Developing an exercise regimen will help absorb some of the free time caused by the current quarantine and develop habits that will help prevent an infection from disease once the quarantine is over.
Regular exercise is just one part of a one-two punch when it comes to getting your immune system in tip-top shape. What you put into your body, via diet, is just as important to keeping your immune response ‘in shape.’ It’s hard for anything to do a proper job, be it your immune system or a carpenter, if they aren’t given the proper tools to do the job.
Health Starts in the Pantry
As any fitness instructor will tell you, being fit is 80% diet. What they mean by this is that it doesn’t matter how hard you work out or how often, without a proper diet you will never get the results that you are working towards.
The best place to start when it comes to adjusting your diet is to start by making a list of what you eat or ingest throughout your day. So, over the course of a day, make a list of the things you eat or put in your body, this list will help you prioritize what to eat more of or less of, or cut out entirely.
Two big things to avoid when it comes to your immune system due to the large impact they have on the body are:
- Smoking has been proven to affect your body in a number of ways that are detrimental to your health. It lowers the amount of oxygen available in your body, which limits your immune system’s ability to fight infection. It also causes inflammation and paralyzes the cilia in your respiratory system. Also, it reduces circulation throughout the body.
- Drinking alcohol also has a negative effect on your immune response. It has long been known that alcohol can affect your health negatively over a long period of time. However, even drinking a moderate but regular amount throughout the week can affect your body’s ability to respond to an infection.
What you eat on a daily basis provides fuel for your body, and with your immune response being part of your body, having wholesome nutrition will provide your body with essential nutrients and vitamins. While everyone’s diet is slightly different depending on tastes and preferences, making sure to get the basics in will give your body a boost to fighting off infection.
Your immune system requires a variety of vitamins and nutrients in order to successfully perform.
- Vitamin A has a high anti-inflammatory effect and foods high in Vitamin A or carotenoids, which the body turns into Vitamin A, are also high in antioxidants, both of which help the immune system. Foods high in Vitamin A and carotenoids are eggs, carrots, broccoli, and other leafy colorful vegetables.
- Vitamin C is a vitamin that has long been known to provide a boost to the immune system. Vitamin C is used in a variety of metabolic functions that help to maintain the health of the immune system, as well as being an antioxidant. Foods that are high in vitamin C are broccoli, kiwi, oranges, tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries.
- Vitamin D is another vitamin that plays a crucial role in the metabolic functions of the immune system besides just its known role in maintaining bone health. Foods you should have in your pantry for vitamin D are cheese, egg yolks, salmon, and tuna.
- Vitamin E, again, this vitamin is important in the underlying metabolic functions of the immune system, as well as being a powerful antioxidant. Foods high in vitamin E are nuts like peanuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds, also many leafy greens are rich in vitamin E.
- Folate has long been known to play a role in DNA and protein synthesis and repair. Which has led many researchers to believe that folate or folic acid, in its synthetic form, plays a large role in the immune system. Foods high in folate are beans, peas, broccoli, oranges, and eggs.
- Iron has long been known to have a large role in the health of the immune system, with studies noting the iron deficiencies have a large role in an individual’s susceptibility to disease. Foods high in iron are some legumes such as white beans, soybeans, and lentils, and foods like spinach, red meat, and pumpkin seeds.
- Selenium has been shown to reduce the amount of inflammation in the body and enhance the immune response of the body as well as playing a large role in many other functions of the body. Foods that are rich in selenium are spinach, eggs, sunflower seeds, and meats such as ham, turkey, beef, and pork.
- Zinc plays a highly crucial role in the immune system, ranging from the development of acquired immunity and natural killer cells to the skin, which plays a large role in the immune system. Foods that can be found with high amounts of zinc are most meats, nuts, beans, milk, and eggs.
How to Get Exercise While at Home
Besides just diet, exercise plays a large role in the health of your immune system. With gyms being closed, and for good reason, you might be at a loss for how to get the appropriate amount of exercise in while stuck at home. However, you don’t need a large amount of exercise to stay healthy, in fact as little as a thirty-minute walk is enough to keep your immune system in shape.
There are many exercises that can be accomplished in the home setting that will allow you to get the exercise you need. Calisthenics are exercises that can be accomplished with no equipment besides your own body. These are gymnastic exercises that build flexibility, strength, tone, and endurance.
Here are some calisthenic exercises you can accomplish at home that will be more than enough to get the weekly exercise your body needs to stay fit and keep your immune system sharp and ready.
With the exception of the side-planks, complete 10-15 repetitions of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise. Once you have completed each exercise, give yourself 30 to 60 seconds before repeating the set of exercises. Repeat the set 3 to 4 times in order to achieve the appropriate amount of exercise.
Health & Fitness – Quick Body-Weight Exercises for the Home
Push-ups – The traditional push-up is accomplished by laying face down on the floor, with your palms pressed flat against the ground at shoulder width and keeping your elbows tucked against your side, push your body up while keeping your body in a straight line to your feet. Lower yourself to the ground and repeat.
Side plank – Side planks are an exercise that starts by laying on your side with your elbow under your shoulder and your forearm flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground and bring your body into a straight line, from your feet to your torso. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax the form and repeat on your opposite side.
Leg-raises – This exercise being with laying flat on your back with your arms down along your side, palms pressed against the floor slightly under your glutes. From this position, keep your legs straight, raise your feet towards the ceiling and then lower them back towards the starting position being sure to keep them from touching the floor between raises.
Squats – Squats are a great exercise to incorporate into any training regimen. This exercise is accomplished by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width while keeping your back straight, then lower your hips until your thighs are parallel with the floor and then return to a standing position.
Lunges – Lunges are another exercise that is started in a standing position, however, your feet should be hip-width apart. With your left leg, take a large step out in front while lowering your hips till your left thigh is parallel with the ground. To complete the exercise, step back with your left leg until you are back in the starting position.
Be Sure to Build Healthy Habits
Keeping an eye on your diet and getting the exercise your body needs to stay active will go a long way to keeping your immune system healthy and responsive in case of infection. This information is very important even without the current COVID-19 pandemic keeping us on our toes.
Staying healthy is actually the building of a series of habits, and is a great use of the free time that the current quarantine has provided us with. It takes about 21 days to build a habit and stick with it. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t meet your goals every day, just don’t quit yourself.