Don’t let isolation lead to stagnation

Health pros share healthy habits in wake of shutdowns

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published October 20, 2020

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METRO DETROIT — Many of us, fortunately, have been able to avoid contracting the dangerous COVID-19 virus.

But that doesn’t mean this pandemic hasn’t made us sick.

Now that we’re closing in on month seven of mask wearing, social distancing, quarantining and increased isolation, it has been easy for people to neglect their general health.

All that food delivery, TV binging and couch vegging is catching up with us, and the result can be more serious than just those annoying extra pounds we’ve gained, begrudgingly dubbed the “Quarantine 15.”

Weight gain, deteriorating strength and stamina, increasing anxiety, and decreasing mood can have long-lasting effects that will stay with us long after this pandemic is over — and yes, at some point it will be over.

That poor health could even make us more susceptible to contracting the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention. According to the agency’s website, people of any age are considered at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 if they already suffer from chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other potentially preventable forms of immunodeficiency.

Staying fit during the tightest parts of the virus shutdown was easier for some than others, said Jim Acciotti, the general manager of Retro Fitness in Rochester.

“It’s really the more health-conscious individuals that came on a regular basis who are coming back now (that gyms have reopened). They really missed the facility during that time,” he said.

Acciotti, not surprisingly, was one of those committed to keeping himself in shape despite not being able to get to the gym. He said he and his wife did lots of walking around his neighborhood — every day, in fact — and he did strength training as best he could at home.

“Something like pushups,” he said. “Even if you wanted to build a gym at home, barbells were hard to purchase early on during quarantine.”

Certified health coach Jill Clark said she didn’t really struggle to keep up her healthy habits while cooped up at home, either. About eight years ago, she lost around 175 pounds and has kept it off ever since. So her mindset was ready for this curveball.

“I have certainly seen higher stress that results in emotional eating during this unprecedented time,” Clark said in a chat. “There is so much fear, (but) there is something we can do. So many people feel helpless. Not me. I see it as an opportunity to do better and be better.”

One of the big tricks, she explained, is to find different outlets for stress management that aren’t related to food or drink. Going for a walk, reading a book or calling a friend. Clark personally likes to clean.

And, if anything, she said she has advised her clients to take advantage of this unique time in history to create healthy habits they haven’t before, maybe because of time constraints.

“Meal planning can relieve the ‘what’s for dinner’ dilemma every night and can help you reach your health goals. We tend to make poor food choices when we’re hungry and don’t have a plan. When we fail to plan, we plan to fail,” she said. “(Meal planning) makes grocery shopping easier — and cheaper — and saves time.”

Acciotti said he’s not expecting a flood of new members now that gyms have reopened, since many folks are still anxious about the virus and don’t want to risk exposure.

But that’s OK, he said. He’ll be waiting when this mess is over.

“Just be doing something — constantly be doing something. Don’t let your body just waste away or anything of that nature,” he said. “I’m hoping that each week, each day, we see things get a little bit better, a little bit more — mentally, emotionally and physically.”

Clark agreed and said she reminds her clients — and herself — that even 0.1% progress every day will still take you further than the day before.

“Those that put on the COVID 15 (or 20 or 30) should know they aren’t alone. They shouldn’t beat themselves up,” she said. “Recognize the need for improvement, make a plan, have accountability, learn from missteps and move forward.”