It’s been 11 years since the world’s last pandemic, but the coronavirus has stepped up and moved the last declared pandemic disease, H1N1 (swine) flu, to history and COVID-19 is now an officially declared worldwide emergency. With the number of people testing positive and self-quarantined increasing daily, fear, anxiety, and panic over the illness and its effects leads to misinformation, rumors and false promises of treatment methods. Common sense prevails when it comes to staying safe and healthy in the face of continued infections: frequent hand-washing, avoiding large crowds, unnecessary travel, staying home if you’re sick and keeping your immune system strong. Avoiding exercise is not a means of avoiding the virus; getting a daily workout will help maintain a positive outlook, boost your immune system, keep your weight and blood pressure under control and avoid long-term health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and bone density loss.

Control contact, carry on with your workout: six steps to stay healthy

Don’t avoid going outside

Health experts aren’t saying going outside is bad; only that large crowds may exacerbate the spread of the virus. But walking, cycling and running outdoors around town on your own isn’t going to expose you to a risk of infection. A daily dose of sunlight also provides Vitamin D, needed for calcium absorption and bone health.

Get prepped — get your shots, know your status

Most insurance policies cover your annual flu shot, and if you’re age 65 and older, the pneumonia vaccine is highly recommended. While neither of these prevents the coronavirus, both can help prevent and mitigate other illness symptoms.  Your insurance likely covers at least one annual health checkup with your doctor; if you have ongoing health issues or chronic illness, the yearly physical goes a long way to monitoring your health and maintaining the amount and strength of your medications. Managing your health makes it easier to avoid falling victim to the coronavirus; many of the victims so far are the elderly and/or those with underlying health issues or weakened immune systems.

You don’t need the gym or a class to get fit

You can work out at home, using simple exercise equipment: jump rope, stretch rope, medicine ball, a set of barbells of varying weights, a stationary bike (or if you have a road bike, you can get an indoor bike trainer, usually a one-piece rack that your rear tire rests in), and stair climbing. Freeze small water bottles and use as weights, turn on the computer and make use of YouTube for videos on dancing, yoga, and boxing. The advantage of adapting to a home workout: the workout is integrated into your life, rather than an activity you rush to in the mornings or try to avoid at night after a long workday.  And because avoiding the coronavirus means you’re home more, it’s difficult to avoid the exercise equipment in your living room everyday.

Got home projects? Now is the time

You’ve been waiting to paint the bedroom, stain the deck, clean out the garage, spread mulch, plant a garden or reorganize the attic? Now is the time and all of these chores get you away from the TV news and accomplishing much-needed work around the house.

Self-care includes adequate sleep

The amount of sleep you need depends on your age, but don’t try to get by on days and days of less, thinking you can make it up later.  Your body needs consistent rest, and regular “lights out” time, whether you’re the child or the parent or the grandparent. It’s difficult to turn off the TV and the computer while news about the world’s health changes every moment. Stay focused on your health and (literally) give it a rest.

Good nutrition: comfort food versus healthy eating

In times of crisis, we tend to seek the foods we know and love; “comfort food” is usually childhood food, associated with happy times, good memories and safe places. Crisis often breeds excuses to overindulge on high-calorie, high-fat, sugary or salty foods, because their consumption eases stress and pushes the bad times away temporarily. But a major factor in fighting the coronavirus is building the immune system; instead of indulgence in old ways of eating, use this time to create a healthier diet. Add citrus, peppers, broccoli, garlic, dark leafy greens, almonds, chicken, sunflower seeds, and Greek yogurt to your day, washed down with green tea. This immunity-boosting grocery list won’t guarantee perfect health, but it’s a good start.