COVID can complicate those new year’s resolutions

Outdoor activities offer solutions

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published January 12, 2022

 Activities such as snowshoeing can be a good way to get some exercise in the winter months, since it gets people outside and lets them be active in a socially distanced manner.

Activities such as snowshoeing can be a good way to get some exercise in the winter months, since it gets people outside and lets them be active in a socially distanced manner.

Photo provided by Elizabeth Schultz

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METRO DETROIT — With the new year here, many people have made resolutions to improve their lives in 2022. A common resolution has always been getting in shape or losing weight, and that may be more true than ever due to COVID-19.

After nearly two years where quarantining, social distancing, and working from home have become normal for millions of people, many have found themselves living a more sedentary lifestyle and not being able to participate in the healthy activities they used to.

“With a lot of my patients, they are working from home,” said Megan Husek, a clinical dietician with the Beaumont Weight Control Center in Canton. “They might work out at lunch or go for walks at lunch. Now they are working through lunch or not walking with a coworker and going to the gym. … Emotional eating also has been a factor. Food as a coping mechanism is common to what is going on.”

Some have been looking for new alternative activities to counter this, where they can exercise while staying outdoors and socially distanced.

“I’ve noticed that outdoor programs have grown in popularity since people are looking for ways to be active outdoors,” said Elizabeth Schultz, the nature center coordinator for the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center in Shelby Township. “It’s easy to understand how they might be more comfortable, since you are outside and socially distanced.”

She added that any activity that gets people moving and active can be a good idea.

“Go out into nature. Hike, jog, get active. Any opportunity to get outside is always good,” Schultz said. “Even something like bridging or birdwatching can be good since it gets you moving in the fresh air. The parks and recreation departments in communities like Shelby Township, where we are located, have lots of activities that people can explore or try out.”

Schultz particularly suggested snowshoeing, a new offering some nature centers, including the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center, are offering.

“One of my favorite activities this time of year is snowshoeing,” she remarked. “We are doing that for the first time this year. It’s a good way to get outside and hike, but this burns more calories, since you are lifting your feet higher and exerting more effort.”

Husek advised that people work to not get overwhelmed, saying that a slow ramp up can be better than trying to jump right into a whole new lifestyle.

“To counter it, just set small, manageable goals,” she said. “If you set the bar too high it becomes all or nothing. We don’t want them following a diet. They should be changing their lifestyle. Small, manageable goals, such as drinking 64 ounces of water, is pretty manageable. Confusing the instinct for being thirsty and being hungry is common. Another example is eating enough vegetables. They help you feel fuller longer, since they have so much fiber, so add them into lunch and breakfast instead of just dinner.”

She added that finding ways to incorporate healthy activities into an existing routine or schedule can be key.

“Scheduling some time for movement or breaking that time into chunks during the day” is good. “Make time for those steps during the day, so just make sure you are moving — 10,000 steps is ideal, but that isn’t always practical, so build movement into your day and maybe invest in a step tracker on your phone or on a watch.”

As for emotional eating, Husek said that sometimes the best solutions can be mental.

“Ask yourself if you are actually hungry or if you are watching someone else snacking, if you’re bored, if you’re worried about something,” she said. “Be aware of if you are actually in need of food.”

Both women said that the ongoing concerns about COVID can make staying healthy more difficult, but that it is by no means impossible. The key is to have a plan, explore available options, and pick what works best in your particular situation.

“I always worked with patients on ramping up their goals,” explained Husek. “It’s not about one big step. You want to start with something small and build toward some bigger changes over the course of several months.”

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