You’re tired of binging on Netflix. You’ve run out of closets to organize. The gym is closed indefinitely. The walls seem to be closing in. Depression and despair -- what Churchill called his “black dog” – are lurking in the shadows.
How is someone supposed to stay physically and mentally healthy during weeks – and probably months – of home isolation?
Whether you’re healthy, disabled or living with chronic illness, maintaining some level of physical fitness is important for overall health and avoiding the depression, anxiety and insomnia that inactivity can bring. It can also help reduce your pain levels.
With no further ado, here are 9 ways to make self-isolation a little easier to bear.
One basic step you can take is to adopt a “light fitness” routine.
“If the sky is clear and the sun is shining, go for a walk during the day. Try to go outside in the morning, every day, at the same time, for a period of 30 minutes or so,” says Mariana Figueiro, PhD, a leading expert on the health benefits of light and director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Figueiro believes that maintaining a 24-hour light–dark schedule increases alertness, mood and vitality during the day, while helping people sleep at night. It may even have a protective effect against coronavirus by boosting your immune system.
If you must stay indoors, Figueiro suggests increasing the amount of light by a factor of four (x4) during the day. That means if you have one lamp in your living room, bedroom or wherever you spend the most time during the day, add three more lamps for a total of four.
In the evening, dim those lights. And avoid using a computer, smartphone or TV right before bedtime. The glow from an electronic screen can make it harder for you to fall asleep.
“A robust pattern of light during the day and darkness at night is important for our health and well-being,” Figueiro advises. “Open the window curtains or shades. Seek light during the day, especially during the morning. Go out for a walk during lunchtime. Dim the lights in the evening, mimicking sunset.”
Opening curtains and blinds to let in sunlight may also help kill the coronavirus, according to scientists at the University of California, Davis.
“In a study simulating sunlight on influenza virus aerosols, virus half-life was significantly reduced from 31.6 min in the dark control group to approximately 2.4 min in simulated sunlight,” researchers said.
“Further research is needed to understand the impact of natural light on SARS-CoV-2 indoors; however, in the interim, daylight exists as a free, widely available resource to building occupants with little downside to its use and many documented positive human health benefits.”
One way to stay in shape during the coronavirus lockdown is to adopt a home exercise routine. 84-year old Denny Hatch began practicing yoga several years ago at the urging of his wife, who saw him struggling just to bend over and put on socks.
Weekly hour-long yoga sessions helped Hatch feel limber and pain-free again. But he thought yoga took too much time.
“Yoga is slow. Slow yoga bores the hell out of me and I wanted something faster. So I cut the practice in half and speeded up the movements,” Hatch says.
For 26 minutes every morning, Hatch goes through a series of low-impact yoga moves in his living room. Hatch recently shot and narrated a free video that he calls “Geezer Fast-Yoga” to help others learn his techniques.
“I decided to share this shortened version in the hopes other senior men might find it useful —especially in this time when so many of us are forced to remain in home detention,” Hatch says. “I invite you to have a look. Maybe you’ll find it helpful.”