Blog
Feb 09
Blog: Get Up and Get Moving

Having trouble fitting into your clothes? Most people have spent more time indoors these past several months than normal in order to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19 infection. Unfortunately, the inactivity and increased stress of these difficult times has given way to more eating, gaming, and binge-watching. 

All natural coping mechanisms, but they may actually contribute to increasing your risk during this pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, adults with excess weight are at higher risk for coronavirus complications, and they are three times more likely to be hospitalized with it.   

Dr. James Kelley, Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Sports Medicine, specializes in treating injuries unique to physical exertion, as well as injuries and illness related to inactivity, including weight gain. Here is some advice he offers for staying active and shedding extra pounds while self-quarantining:  

Snacks. When we’re home, we have more access to snacks. We’ll unconsciously snack all day, grabbing chips, pretzels, crackers, and cookies. It adds up quickly, as much as an extra couple thousand calories a day. Replace snacks with fruit and vegetables, and limit your salty, sweet snacks to a once-a-week treat.  

Drinks. Beer, soda, and fruit juice might be easy to grab from the fridge, but they offer more calories and sugar than nutrition. Better to grab water instead, or unsweetened herbal tea.

Clear cupboards. Go through your kitchen cupboards and pantry to clear out items you shouldn’t be eating. Resolve not to buy them. You might be able to walk by those cookies three times, but your willpower might not make it a fourth time. Make carrot sticks ahead of time, so they are easy to grab from the front of the fridge. Hide the chips behind cans and boxes, making them more trouble than their worth. 

Stress. According to Dr. Kelley, you can have two people on identical diets and exercise plans, but the one with the high stress will still gain weight. The physiological responses to stress can be harmful, but even mild stress will impact your ability to lose weight. This is a good time to check into seeing a mental health professional to help you with your stress, which will help you both feel better and lose weight. 

Kids and gaming.  The realistic graphics of gaming can spike one’s adrenaline pretty high. At some level, your brain knows you aren’t getting shot at or chased by a monster, but your fight or flight instincts will still keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Keep the gaming away from bedtime. Have your child or teenager read a book or do some other quiet activity to wind down instead. The quiet will help their sleep, their self-esteem, and their ability to pay attention in school. 

Kids and obesity. Young people have plenty of natural energy that can be tapped into, so you don’t really have to put them on a diet. There’s no reason for them to go hungry. Just keep the healthy food readily accessible, in sight, and served at meals, then either hide or don’t buy the rest. They don’t need energy drinks and juices. They need water. Keep the kids off the couch by telling them they can beat the “boss” after they’ve kicked a soccer ball around outside or built a snowman, depending on the season. Their metabolism will handle the rest. It is so much easier for young people to lose weight than adults.

About exercise. You can out-eat any exercise. You run 5 miles and burn a couple hundred calories, but if you eat a 400-calorie muffin, you’ll still gain weight. In fact, your body wants you to gain weight. Stored fat helps humans get through times of scarcity. So we have to trick our bodies to burn the fat, which is stored energy. That’s what exercise does. Eating right without exercise will limit your ability to shed extra pounds. 

Get up, get moving. With exercise, the best thing you should do is let your body warm up with gentle stretches. At first, that may be as far as you get. That’s okay, just make a commitment to ratchet up from there. Go for a walk, then walk a little farther each day, then try a brisk, fast walk. Try a stationary bike, an elliptical machine, and aerobics. Resistance training is excellent for your health. If you are at risk for osteoporosis, lifting weights or using resistance equipment will strengthen your bones. Join a gym so you can have access to experts who can help you use the equipment correctly. If you stick with it, it will pay for itself in reduced healthcare costs. As always, check in with your primary care provider before beginning a new exercise routine. 

If you are interested in learning more about inactivity and exercise for you and your family, Dr. Kelley is seeing patients in the Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Sports Medicine practice in Malta. Call 518-363-8710 to make an appointment. 
 


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