When asked how healthy U.S. adults are today, 42% of survey respondents said we’re worse off than two decades ago. They also stated — correctly — that getting enough exercise and eating well can prevent conditions like heart disease and diabetes. However, it’s not always easy to put what we know into action. Demanding jobs, stress, and responsibilities at home can prevent us from making healthy lifestyle choices. Not being able to access safe and non-intrusive treatments or find doctors we trust are other obstacles. The lack of these things can stop us from seeking the care we need.
These barriers existed even before COVID-19. Now, social distancing guidelines and government restrictions have led to more isolation in our homes. Getting and staying healthy means looking at simple and unconventional ways to make improvements. We’ve adjusted by hosting virtual movie nights and putting together home gyms. Innovative health care services like at-home health monitoring and televisions with doctors have become more normal. As we rethink how to take care of ourselves, here are some things you can do from your house.
1. Use Home Tests and Monitoring Tools
While there are some things that only doctors can do, it’s possible to test for various health conditions from home. You can find out what your cholesterol levels are and whether you have allergies or strep throat. With proper use, you can arm yourself with information from, say, an at-home STI test to find the right treatment for several common conditions. You may need to follow up with a doctor, but at least you’ll know whether seeing one is necessary. Concerned about your blood pressure or body mass index? Keep track of significant changes with everyday equipment you can get online or from your local pharmacy. See how much of your weight is from muscle mass using body fat scales. Smart scales can sync to fitness apps to determine whether you’re meeting your fitness goals. Blood pressure monitors can store readings from different days to see whether medications or lifestyle changes are working.
2. Get on Your Feet
The Department of Health and Human Services reports that only 24% of us get enough aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. Sitting too much can take its toll, putting you at risk for more than just added weight. Hours spent on the couch or at a desk can increase blood pressure and the chance of developing cancer. Investing in a standing desk for your home office is a great idea, but there is an easier way. Try standing and stretching at your desk every hour for five to 10 minutes. You can even work in a few exercises like leg lunges and pushups against the wall.
Another way to get in some exercise while working from home is to use your lunch hour. Take a walk outside, hop on the treadmill if you have a home gym, or check out some workouts online. Even if you can’t get away during lunch, schedule time to be active in the morning or evening. Remember, you don’t always have to work up a serious sweat. Instead, play with your pets in your backyard, take up gardening, or do a few reps with a pair of dumbbells.
3. Discover New Interests
Want to start growing a garden? Speak a new language or read that stack of books you bought months ago? Learning new skills and developing interests we’re passionate about will keep our brains active. Pursuing hobbies and passions can give us meaning in ways our professional lives can’t. Taking advantage of online resources and communities dedicated to what we find appealing can connect us with others. While it’s not the same as socializing face-to-face, sharing what excites us leads to feeling less lonely. We also gain a sense of accomplishment when we can learn something fresh. Solitary activities like word searches, crossword puzzles, and reading challenge the ways we think. Mental exercises and gaining new perspectives through others’ words can improve memory and increase empathy. These are valuable skills we can rely on at work or with family and friends.
4. Get High-Quality Rest
Staying physically and mentally active is important, but your body and mind need rest, too. A lack of sleep can hurt your health in several ways. You may, for example, find it more difficult to keep weight off or colds at bay. The amount of rest you get is also linked to your mood. Without enough sleep, you can get irritable, find it difficult to concentrate and increase your risk of anxiety and depression. You can take naps if you need to, but it’s better to sleep seven to eight hours each night. Use a fitness or health app to track your nighttime activity. Some fitness trackers show how many times you were restless or woke up. Sleep quality can be just as important as the amount of time you spend in bed. Exercising or drinking alcohol too close to bedtime can cause you to wake up after only a few hours. Leaving the TV on or spending too much time on your phone will disrupt your natural cycles.
5. Cook for Yourself
Instead of ordering takeout, start cooking nutritious, calorie-smart recipes. If you’re not a natural chef, you don’t have to resort to guesswork. Cookbooks and apps can help. You may want to try meal kit services that cater to healthy eating. Options like these can eliminate confusion about what foods to buy and what makes a wholesome meal. Some services have choices for vegetarian, vegan, organic, keto, and other specific diets. If you want to skip the meal kits, try planning what you’re going to eat for the week.
Find a new dish or two to make and include what you need on your grocery list. Research tasty foods that can substitute for too much sugar, simple carbs, or fat. Spending more time at home can turn out to be good for your well-being. With fewer distractions, you can focus on making small changes. It’s those slight but impactful differences that will turn into the progress you’ll notice in the long run.