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What I am paying attention to the most during the Covid pandemic.

Aside from social distancing, wearing a mask when in public, and only going out to the grocery store for essentials, I am making a conscious effort to maintain and improve my health. My impression of the near future during the covid pandemic is that this virus will most definitely be sticking around and while a vaccine is on the horizon, we will most likely be getting back out into society and working before there are known effective treatments or a safe vaccine.

Aside from age, the highest risk factors that we know of at this time for poor outcomes are comorbidities: cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, obesity, diabetes, and other lifestyle mediated diseases.

So, while this virus is easily transmissible and there may come a day that I get exposed unknowingly. As far as I know, I am healthy with no predetermined health factors that would make fending off this illness difficult for my body…BUT why not get my body in its best working order. Why not keep my body in its best shape. It may not prevent me from getting exposed or even ill, but intuitively, I know being in my best possible health will help my body fight the disease should it come to that. Maintaining healthy habits also helps boost mood and relieve stress which are both affected by having to stay home to stay safe.

Making sensible lifestyle changes is not always easy. It means making habit changes. Some of these do not happen overnight, either. I think, however, that this pandemic is going to be with us a while and I am determined to get in my best form of health and well being. even small changes over a period of time can help reduce risk factors. Think about how exercising regularly and adopting a healthier diet can reduce blood pressure, decrease swings in blood sugar, and even reduce weight.

What I am most paying attention to right now.

First, I am paying a lot of attention to my Oura ring. If you have not heard of the Oura ring, it is a ring that is worn and measures certain biometrics. The ones I am paying the most attention to are: temperature for the obvious reason, heart rate variability, and REM/restorative sleep.

If you have not been paying attention to your heart rate variability, I highly recommend you start! Heart rate variability is the variability in the time between heartbeats. You may be scratching your head at this one. It took me a few minutes to wrap my head around the concept, too. What that means is that the more variable the timing between beats, the more relaxed you are or the more resilient. High variability is good. The more regular the timing between beats, the more stressed or the more your sympathetic nervous system is in charge. Your sympathetic nervous system ramps up when we are stressed. Low variability is not as good. The parasympathetic nervous system starts to take over when we are relaxed. This causes higher HRV, a more relaxed and resilient state.

If we are stressed, getting sick, not getting enough rest, overdoing it, burning the candle at both ends, your heart rate variability will lower. That change may be reflected even before you “feel” a change in your health. Knowing if my heart rate variability (HRV)  is lower than usual arms me with the knowledge to make changes to help restore my health whether that means getting enough sleep, eating better, getting exercise, or making an effort to destress. So, I pay a lot of attention to my HRV and find ways to either increase it or avoid the things I know make it go down – stress, lack of sleep, poor diet.

The second most important effort I am making is to exercise regularly, almost every day, unless I need a rest day. I am taking long walks outside in the sun (getting vitamin D!) or taking the dogs for nature walks in the hiking trails behind my home. I am doing cardiovascular exercises, such as slow 5Ks or a short regime of sprint/rest cycles. In addition to cardio and endurance exercises, I am also doing strength training using body weight and/or dumbbell or resistance bands. Check out the home gym equipment I use. Exercise, as long as it is not excessive (watch your HRV) helps boost so many health factors, including the immune system. If you do not have an Oura ring for HRV reading, an Apple watch also takes these measurements. It is a bit more difficult to get consistent readings, however.

Nutrition is also a key factor in attaining optimal health. For each person, this may look slightly different. I do not believe there is a one size fits all approach to a healthy diet, as there are so many factors that are at play here. My overarching principle, however, is to eat whole, unprocessed, and low glycemic foods. So that means now more than ever, we should be honing in on our highly nutritious food sources with eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats and proteins. Avoid foods that are inflammatory which may be processed foods or just foods that cause your body to react. Think gut health, wholesome and anti-inflammatory!

So, to sum things up……my overall TOP 5 health habits from home during this pandemic are:

  1. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
  2. Eat whole foods, lower sugar content. Making sure to include foods with vitamin C!
  3. Exercise daily – 30 to 60 minutes. (I may close attention to my Oura ring on this one – if my HRV, restorative sleep etc are going down, then I modify my routine.)
  4. Track biometrics – HRV, sleep especially REM (restorative sleep) – as above, I use this information to make decisions on ramping my activity up or down, adding in more stress management or even taking a day off to rest.
  5. Immune systems boost – vitamin D is a big one, making sure to get direct sunlight on my skin.

Stay safe my friends,

Heather



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