I suppose it’s the stress and frustration of isolation, dealing with all the rules and regulations around this pandemic, along with changes in plans to visit family and friends, or looking forward to a holiday; whatever it is, more and more people are finding it difficult to stay on track.  They use phrases like, ‘lack of motivation” or, ‘lack of energy to do anything.’

I get it.

However, if there ever was a time to boost your immune health through proper eating and exercise, it is now. We can do a lot for our immunity by concentrating on simple lifestyle changes; the hard part, of course, is actually doing it.  

Exercise: as much as some will say “it’s too cold” or “too dark,”, there are many ways to raise our heart rate, which will boost our mood and immune cells.

  1. A brisk walk; don’t worry about the number of steps, just alter speed; faster and slower; one minute each. Brisk walk for 1 minute, slower pace for one minute; repeat 5 times.
  2. Same if you are lucky enough to have a treadmill or stationary bike: walk or cycle slowly for 3 minutes then 1 min fast, 1 min slow times 5. (We are trying to get our heart rate up for brief spurts.)
  3. If there is no equipment, you can do high knees on the spot, 1 minute faster and one minute slower, 3 times. Or, 1 minute leg raises from a seated position, and one minute forward arm raises from a seated position. Listen to a podcast or music to keep it interesting. You can easily do 2 to 6 minutes of movement during a show.
  4. Do some stretches. Stretch in bed, even.
  5. Stand during commercials, or at least move every 20 minutes if you are sitting for long periods of time.

Recently, as some of you know, I moved out of a small, one-bedroom condo into a little townhouse. In the small condo, I found I was moving very little; no gym and no pools with the pandemic restrictions; it was so easy just to sit and read. I noticed I was getting lethargic and desperately needed to force myself to move; now I have stairs, snow to shovel and a small room to exercise in.  My mental and physical energy have changed drastically by incorporating extra movement. COVID has limited the very things we need to do to improve our immune function. Not everyone has access to stairs or equipment, but just MOVE regardless!  Force yourself to get up and move around. Don’t stay stuck at your computer or TV.

Food 

  1. Get rid of all high-carb processed food, especially as snacks. If you have to snack, have foods that will sustain you longer without triggering more cravings: for example, olives, cheese, nuts, cold meat, veggies and dip, etc. Often, a mug of hot broth is enough to settle perceived hunger at any time of day. Night eating is usually not physical hunger; it is a habit we develop as an emotion management tool. 
  2. Keep trying to have a shorter eating window. 6 to 10 hours; nothing before or after, except fluids; again, this boosts the immune system.

Sleep

  1. Try to get to be earlier and avoid bright screens in the bedroom; preferably, read a book, listen to an audiobook, or listen to music or a podcast. 
  2. If you wake up at night, and can’t sleep, try not to lie there; go to another room and read until you begin to feel drowsy.

Sleep is one of the most necessary factors for our immune health.

Bottom line: notice if you’re making excuses or giving yourself permission to avoid taking action.  Pick one small thing today to take action on: can you move your body for 2 minutes?  Can you avoid eating after 7pm?  Can you get to bed earlier?  Can you jot down 2 things you feel proud of today, and 2 things that would make you feel proud tomorrow?

You can do it.  Never give up!

Dr. Doug