Expert tips on maintaining your health and fitness during these challenging times
Many of us have been without access to the gym for several weeks now. Add to that the fact that most of us are stuck at home and getting nowhere near the same amount of activity that our bodies were used to before this whole situation hit, and you can see that this is quickly becoming a recipe for weight gain and a lack of exercise.
With that in mind, the team at Innovative Fitness wanted to share some of our favourite tips for staying healthy through these challenging times...
1. Move daily
As much as possible, try to get some movement in daily. Moving your body helps deliver fresh nutrients to working muscles, and helps to clear waste and toxins out of your body through your lymphatic system—a system that is passive in nature and requires muscle contractions to push those toxins through it and out of your body.
Start with a goal that’s realistic and achievable for you; 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day is a great place to start. Bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges and pushups are all great ways to help you maintain lean mass (muscle and bone) while burning calories and fat.
2. Recover purposefully
Try to sleep seven to nine hours per night. Our bodies recover and regenerate while we sleep. Getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night can lead to hormonal imbalances, compromise your immune system, and make it more likely that you’ll lose lean mass while gaining fat. Here are a few ideas to help you get a good night’s rest:
- Shut off screens 1 to 2 hours before bed: The light they emit tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime and ends up keeping us awake later than we should be.
- Drink a cup of herbal tea, like chamomile: Make sure it’s caffeine-free. Some herbal teas are naturally sedative, but even for teas that don’t specifically have those properties, simply making this part of your pre-bed routine can train your brain to the point that, when you drink it, it starts powering down for sleep simply due to the association you’ve created.
- Do a “brain dump”: Take out a piece of paper and write down everything you need to do the next day. Write down anything else that you’ve been worrying about too. Now your brain knows all that stuff will be waiting for you on that piece of paper in the morning and it doesn’t have to worry about it anymore.
- Do some kind of relaxing activity: Stretching or foam-rolling helps regulate your nervous system. Reading some light fiction (nothing too exciting or engaging) can help give your mind something else to think about, rather than your worries about the day or future.
- Take a warm bath (or, some people also swear by cold showers before bed): This can help create the shift in body temperature that your nervous system associates with falling asleep and can help get that process started.
- Turn your bedroom into a “sleep cave”
- Make it as dark as you can (cover any digital displays)
- Make it as quiet as possible.
- Turn down the thermostat.
3. Manage stress
Beyond optimizing your sleep routine, try adding in some daily relaxation time. This can be almost anything that you find relaxing, as long as it doesn’t involve a screen.
Even if you feel like watching TV or scrolling through Twitter is relaxing, your nervous system would respectfully disagree.
Here are a few more ideas for relaxing activities you can try:
- Going for a relaxing walk (ideally in nature)
- Listening to relaxing music
- Deep breathing exercises
- Snuggling a loved one or pet
- Yoga or gentle mobility work
- Being intimate with a partner
- Singing along with your favourite song or album
- Practicing mindfulness or meditation
If that last idea is new one for you, you can try guided meditation on an app like Headspace, Calm or Stop, Breathe & Think.
4. Eat for health and well-being
Of course, a healthy diet remains one of the leading factors for managing weight. While it can be easy to compromise our diet with the fridge always nearby, Sean Allt, Innovative Fitness' nutrition and performance coach has a few tips for integrating healthy eating habits that will keep you feeling good:
- Eat slowly at each meal: Did you know that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to “tell” your brain that it’s satisfied? Try to take 20 to 30 minutes to eat each meal in order to give your natural fullness cues a chance to kick in.
- Eat lean protein at each meal: Aim for a portion about the size of the palm of your hand at each meal.
- Eat colourful vegetables at each meal: Aim for two portions the size of your fist at most meals. Bonus points for having multiple colours on your plate.
- Make smart carb choices: Limit grain and starch intake to the amount you could fit in your cupped hand (without it spilling everywhere) or a piece of fruit at most meals.
- Eat healthy fats: Nuts, seeds, avocado, and fish oil (avoid this one if you’re on blood thinners) are all good options, to name a few. Eat an amount one to two times the size of your thumb (or 1 to 2 tablespoons) at most meals.
- Ask yourself if you’re actually hungry: Or are you just bored and happened to find yourself standing in the kitchen again?
5. Take it one step at a time
Instead of trying everything on this list in one day, consider trying one new thing from each of the four categories above. If you feel like they work for you, stick with them and consider adding one more item when you feel ready. If you find that you tried something that’s not a good fit for you, throw it out and try a different suggestion from that same category.
Treat it as a personal experiment and find what works best for you. And if you need any support, our team of personal trainers, nutrition coaches and executive health experts are here to help.