Exercise and eating – adjusting to ‘the new norm’ 

COVID-19 has changed the way we engage in day-to-day activities. We may be spending more time at home or at work and seeing changes in our daily schedules. These changes can impact the way we move and what we eat.  

At a recent employee forum, we heard from Monash Health’s Sally Leonard, Exercise Physiologist, and Mary Anne Silvers, Head of Nutrition and Dietetics. They spoke about two important aspects of our health: exercise and eating.  

Developing and maintaining healthy eating habits 

Mary Anne emphasised the importance of keeping a healthy balance in your diet during lockdown. “The COVID-19 outbreak has a huge impact on our diet.” She mentioned that it was important to make sure that we don’t slip into unhealthy eating habits, simply because we find ourselves with spending more time at home. 

Mary Anne outlined a few things to be mindful of:  

  • The location of your office (are you working from the kitchen bench or dining room table?) 
  • Developing a set eating routine 
  • Making meals and snacks healthy 
  • Rethinking what you drink 
  • Tuning into your hunger cues 
  • Splurging purposefully 

It is easy to fall into an unhealthy diet due to circumstances we find ourselves in, but Mary Anne reiterated the importance of making sure we maintain a balanced diet. This doesn’t mean completely cutting out what could be considered ‘unhealthy’ meals or snacks, but perhaps being mindful of how often we consume those kinds of meals and snacks.  

She also provided some tips on food safety during COVID-19 in both the preparation and consumption of food. 

  • Wash your hands frequently  
  • Don’t share your food or utensils 
  • Use different chopping boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods 
  • Wash fresh fruit and vegetables under running water 
  • Cook food well 
  • Cover and chill leftovers quickly 
  • Avoid preparing food for others if you have symptoms 

Physical activity during COVID-19 

Exercise physiologist Sally Leonard spoke to the importance of building in healthy exercise habits into our routines, routines that may be substantially different during COVID-19. The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a survey in April this year which confirmed that 58% of people are spending more time watching television and being sedentary during leisure time.  

It is easy to fall into a sedentary state, particularly if you have experienced a shift in routine or work environment. Sally provided some advice on how to stay on top of our physical health: 

  • Swap slippers for runners – having a pair of runners at your desk can be a helpful reminder to take a break, put on your runners and go for a walk! 
  • Try new activities – you could try a new street to explore within 5km of your home, a kid’s yoga class with your little ones or even a Webex workout with your colleagues. 
  • Headspace – your physical health and your mental health are connected. You can try sitting still for 10 minutes, a meditation session or even just focusing on deep breathing when performing day-to-day tasks like boiling the kettle.  
  • Accept – accept those invited to Monash Health Webex sessions about exercise, mindfulness and selfcare. Keep an eye on your inbox and the Monash Health COVID-19 website! 
  • Establish new ways – get creative in finding small ways to improve your physical fitness. Park further away from the entrance at work, take walk in between meetings or clients or set yourself exercise tasks for the day.  
  • Comfort – make sure you have the appropriate footwear and are wearing comfortable, flexible clothing.  
  • Technology – if you have a smartphone or smartwatch, you can use them to count your steps or keep track of your physical activity throughout the day.  
  • Environment change – sometimes changing your environment can be beneficial for your body. For example, moving to a room with more natural light or putting in your headphones and taking a meeting while on the move. It’s also sometimes helpful to take short breaks from technology and focus on getting some sunshine or fresh air.  

As mentioned, there are many ways to stay on top of your physical health. Diet and exercise are important factors of your wellness and can also work to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing.  

If you missed Sally and Mary Anne’s presentations, you can watch them here. For more information on how to look after your physical wellbeing, you can visit the Monash Health COVID-19 websiteBe sure to tune into our Thursday employee forums for more health and wellbeing content. 

Approved by Stuart Cavill

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