What a crazy year 2020 has been, and it has been a challenge to stay healthy in multiple ways. Obviously, the main health concern is COVID-19, but there are many other health issues that have crept into our lives as a result.
With the change in activity level, many of us have not been as active as we were prior to COVID. This has led to weight gain, weakening of posture, and even some mental health issues. Many of us are working more from home, which means not having the best ergonomics.
I have seen increased rates of back and neck pain, along with problems due to poor sitting posture. Carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, shoulder impingement, along with many more issues have become more common in my practice.
5 Easy Ideas to Stay Healthy
The good news? There are some things you can do to stay healthy and avoid problems in the future. These 5 things will not stop all aches and pains, however, but will help you to increase your overall health.
These may seem simple but give them a try and see how you feel.
You probably guessed this one! Being more active helps our bodies to gain strength, controls weight gain, and improves attitude and mood. When you are active, it helps to control cortisol in the body and relieve stress and anxiety. Who wouldn’t like that these days?
Make sure it is something you enjoy though. I am a firm believer that if you don’t enjoy the activity you choose, it will not last long. Think about things you like to do, or liked to do in the past, and go from there.
When I turned 32, I realized I wasn’t as active as I wanted to be. I remembered when I was 18 I had done a triathlon called the spudman in Idaho, and it seemed like a good way to be active. I had always loved swimming and biking, but running wasn’t really my thing.
I decided to start with running to get back into activity. If I could get good at running, then triathlons would be much more enjoyable. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t get into it and I started to get discouraged. It was at that time that I added in the swimming and biking, and that helped significantly.
The problem I had was I didn’t do something I truly enjoyed. Eventually, with enough practice and work, I began to really enjoy running, but it took a long time. If I would have just kept with running at that time, I don’t think I would have continued.
So, find something fun that you enjoy to be active! You can even do this in winter.
Watch Your Posture
It seems like everywhere I look, poor posture is the epidemic within the pandemic. This has been a focus of treatment for a large number of problems we see in the clinic. Shoulder, back, hip, and definitely neck pain is associated with poor posture, along with many others.
If you can watch and improve your posture, you take the strain off of the muscles of the neck, upper back, and other structures. With less stress on those tissues, you will notice less pain, tightness, and irritation.
This will lead to less headaches, pain, and will prevent issues in the future. This is well worth your investment of time.
One easy way to watch your posture is to think about your head as a bowling ball. Ideally, we want this bowling ball centered on top of the spine. The spine should be straight like building blocks stacked on top of each other. This causes the least stress on the muscles if your bowling ball is perched right on top of the tower.
Obviously we can’t maintain this 100% of the time, but keeping that idea and focus can definitely help.
Drink More Water
This is definitely an easy one. Water is essential for our bodies to function. It truly is life giving. Getting more water in your body helps many important functions and will make you feel better overall.
One of the main things I hear people say about drinking more water is they don’t like the taste. Well, compared to sweetened drinks, or artificial sweeteners, it doesn’t have much of a taste. I wouldn’t call that a “bad” taste though.
I think many of us have just conditioned ourselves to need more flavor with what we eat and drink than is necessary or needed.
To me, water tastes amazing when I am really thirsty. Think about going on a really long hike and running out of water. When you finally make it back home, that first glass of water is AMAZING! Maybe that is just me, but give it a try with the first suggestion above.
Get Enough Sleep
This is one I think most of us struggle with. I have commented more than once that I wish I had a couple of more hours in the day to get things done. Really though, I think if I would just get adequate sleep, I would be more productive and not need it.
Recommendations on sleep vary but most agree that adults need 7-9 hours, teens 8-10 hours, and grade school kids 9-11 hours. Are you getting enough sleep?
Sleep is restorative to our bodies. This means it helps to heal and get stronger. Without adequate sleep, we are not able to recover from our activities. Sleep also helps us mentally recover. If you are trying to learn something new, you definitely need your sleep.
To help with quality of your sleep, look into sleep hygiene. Things like limiting electronics right before bed and your bedtime routine can have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep.
Vitamin D and Sunlight
As we come into winter, this one can be a bit harder. Vitamin D is supplemented in a lot of foods we eat nowadays, but really, for those of us living in areas like Utah, that may not be enough. With the days getting shorter and colder, it is hard to get enough.
Being out in the sun helps to improve natural vitamin D production in the body. With the cold weather, it is hard to have skin exposed to the sun to synthesize Vitamin D, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible. Try going outside on days when the sun is shining and get some sunlight.
Increased exposure to sunlight has been linked to improved mood and reduced stress and anxiety. It also helps our energy levels and improves our ability to learn and focus.
Vitamin D supplementation may be something to look into if you are feeling tired and having difficulty focusing or being motivated. Ask your doctor for more information.
Don’t let COVID crazy time affect you physically. With many of our extracurricular activities cancelled or put on hold, we have more time to focus on our own wellbeing.
Try the 5 things listed above and take control of your health. The healthier you are, the less chance of contracting the virus and other sicknesses. That alone would be worth it during this time of pandemic.
David Butler, Physical Therapist
If you are looking for help with aches and pains, but you are concerned about COVID, please check out our Telehealth page. You can even sign up for a Free Consultation over the internet to help you know what direction to go. Click Here to check it out.