By Wendy M. Henrichs
Board Certified Chiropractic Pediatrician and Nutrition Counselor
This past year has been a challenge for many. The comfort of your daily routine has been disrupted, causing stress. The struggle of not seeing family and friends is also stressful. This has led to stress eating combined with a decrease in exercise or intensity of exercise resulting in weight gain. Not only that, but stress has a negative effect on your immune system and how it functions. It also contributes to the development of degenerative illness and disease. There are several studies published recently examining how the COVID-19 pandemic life has affected eating behaviors, physical activity and stress.
One study published in Obesity reported that about one third of the approximately 8,000 study participants had gained weight and exercised less since April 2020. Those who were already obese were affected the most. There are many things you do not have control over during the pandemic life, but you do have control of what you eat, how much you exercise, and how you view the current state of life. Regardless, 2021 is upon us, bringing an opportunity to start anew and take your health and fitness to a new level.
If your fitness and exercise routine has taken a beating in the past nine months, now is the time to make a change.
Consistent cardiovascular exercise contributes to weight control and weight loss. It also strengthens your heart, lungs and blood vessels. A sweaty cardio session will amp up your metabolism for one to two hours post-exercise. Weight and strength training builds lean muscle necessary for bone strength and bone density as you age. It also stimulates your metabolism for hours, and the more lean muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest. This is especially important for long term weight control. Exercise is excellent at decreasing cortisol, your stress hormone, and improving your immune system function. If you are short on time and equipment, no problem. You can do body weight HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts that only take 10-15 minutes. High intensity interval training is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “at least 12 weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) improves cardiometabolic risk factors such as waist circumference, percent body fat, resting heart rate, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure in overweight/obese populations.”– BJSM 2017; 51:494-503.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, just decide to get up and move more in 2021. Whether you go to work, work at home, or are staying at home, you can set a timer to get up and move every hour. You can also schedule exercise into your daily routine. Work towards 150 minutes (about two-and-a-half hours) or more of exercise weekly, and you will be on your way to a leaner, fitter, healthier you in 2021.
Jack Lalane used to say, “if man made it, I won’t eat it.” The centenarian Blue Zoners have figured this out as well eating a mostly plant-based diet. The standard American diet (SAD) is laden with sugar, artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives, added hormones, and pesticides. Consuming added sugar leads to unwanted weight gain, type II diabetes and obesity. Additionally, it is a major cause of inflammation and lowered immune function both of which increase your risk related to COVID-19. Now that the holiday season is over, it is a great time to get rid of added sugar along with processed and packaged foods. An easy way to do this is to fill your plate with vegetables and/or fruit first. They are low in calories, high in prebiotic fiber (which is good for your gut bacteria), and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eating veggies and fruit will lower your insulin response after a meal which leads to better blood sugar control along with the antioxidants which will improve your immune function. Eating veggies or fruit combined with protein and good fats from nuts, seeds, wild caught fish, grass fed beef, wild game, eggs, legumes, lentils, chia seeds, hemp hearts and quinoa will help to reduce inflammation in your body, which is a risk factor for poor outcomes from Covid-19 and will take your health to a new level 2021. Choose organic as much as you can in all your food choices. Work towards eating seven to ten half-cup servings of vegetables and fruit daily combined with (three to four) four-ounce servings or protein and two to three tablespoons of good fats. Your waistline and immune system will thank you.
The added stress of the current situation has made it even more important to exercise and eat a good diet, but sadly, for many this has not been the case. Please do not become a statistic of the pandemic. The New Year brings the possibility to change. There is also the hope of returning to some sense of normalcy with the release of the COVID-19 vaccine to the public. Make January 2021 a month filled with improved eating habits that include eating less added sugar and processed foods, eating more plant-based foods, and eating more good protein and good fats. Make a commitment to get up and move daily, every minute counts. Add weight training and body weight exercises and watch your waistline whittle away.
This will get you on a good start to improving your health and fitness in 2021. It will also help reduce inflammation and lower your risk for a bad outcome if you do contract the SARS-CoV2 virus. Remember, it is never too late to make a shift in health.
Dr. Wendy Henrichs is a board certified chiropractor and nutrition counselor at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, visit TimberlandChiropractic.com, Facebook, or call 715-362-4852.