Last updated on November 26th, 2022 at 04:09 pm
Keeping a healthy lifestyle in the new year is important for everyone, but the COVID-19 pandemic makes it even more important. According to a survey asking Americans about their New Year’s resolutions for 2022, one-quarter of those who stated a goal to live healthier did so as a goal to get in shape. NewYork-Presbyterian doctors, nurses, and dietitians shared 5 Health and Wellness tips for creating and living healthy .
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1. Get regular exercise
Physical fitness improves cardiovascular and muscular health and prevents disease. Try to fit in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, the minimum recommended by the American Heart Association, plus two days of muscle-strengthening activities each week. “Practicing daily self-care methods such as exercise, stretching, meditation, or meditating can help you feel calmer and reset,” says Maria Biondi, RDN, CDN, a NYPBeHealthy well-being coach at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens.
Here are a few Health and Wellness tips for breaking down exercises into 30-minute increments, courtesy of NYPBeHealthy’s wellness team:
- Try to walk at least two 30-minute lunchtimes per week or plan to walk with colleagues.
- Exercise 30 minutes with hand weights or a kettlebell while watching TV.
- When you get up in the morning, jump rope for 15 minutes, and then when you get home from work.
- Do squats for 10 minutes each three times per day at your desk.
Benefits of regular exercise for Health and Wellness
Do not be afraid to workout in the cold during the winter months. Dr. Morgan Busko, attending physician at New York-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, says exercising outdoors provides all the physical benefits of indoor exercise – cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility, and endurance. But there are many other advantages as well.
Being in the sun increases your body’s production of vitamin D, which protects you from a host of medical problems, says Dr. Busko, who is also an assistant professor of primary care sports at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Exercise outdoors may also provide a special psychological boost.
According to Dr. Busko, studies have shown that outside exercise increases the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and natural endorphins released by the body. You get a bigger dose of neuromuscular transmitters in the outdoors compared to an indoor workout. Exercise outdoors may also be more effective. Dr. Busko says that when you are exercising outside, you aren’t aware that you are climbing hills or moving over uneven terrain, unlike when you are working out on a machine in the gym, where you may stay at the same resistance level the entire time.
Those who work from home may also find it beneficial to move regularly during the workday to reduce aches and pains. When it comes to spine health, “movement is medicine,” says Dr. J. Ricky Singh, director of interventional spine at NewYork-Presbyterian Och Spine and vice chair and associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. Incorporate 10 squats, 10 tricep dips on a solid chair, and wall pushups into your daily routine. You should also get up from your desk two or three times an hour to walk around and do light stretches, such as back bends, which will help counter the effects of hunching over a computer.
2. Eating right
Dr. Rekha B. Kumar, an attending endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, recommends getting enough fruit, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day as well as protein in the morning. Protein in your breakfast will keep your blood sugar and some hunger hormones stable, helping you to control your appetite throughout the day. A few examples are egg-white omelets, Greek yogurt, and protein shakes. Dr. Kumar also recommends avoiding too much sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup. Excess sugar consumption results in insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, it has been linked to cirrhosis, neuropathy, kidney disease, general inflammation, and cancer.
Dr. Shilpa Ravella, a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, says a diet without red meat offers many health benefits if you replace the calories with whole plant foods. By lowering your cholesterol levels, you decrease your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.
Dr. Altaf Pirmohamed, site director of cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, says the Mediterranean diet is an easy-to-follow, low-carbohydrate diet full of “healthy” fats like nuts and seeds that reduces our risk of heart disease. Focus on eating vegetables cooked in olive oil and natural spices, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Dr. Alessio Pigazzi, saying the diet is beneficial for colon health as well. Eating certain foods can cause inflammation in the gut and bowels, and inflammation is a predisposing factor for colorectal cancer. The main food substances that cause inflammation in the body and may increase the risk of colorectal cancer are sugar, animal fats, and red and processed meats. There isn’t one specific vegetable that can cure everything when it comes to a healthy colon. You should focus on a colorful, plant-based diet and eat a variety of nutritious foods. “The best diet – and I may be biased because I’m Italian – would be a Mediterranean diet on steroids,” says Dr. Pigazzi. We should eat a lot more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and berries, and limit the consumption of red meat and animal fats to the absolute minimum.”
3. Make Sure You Sleep Enough
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many people’s sleep patterns — some have even suffered from what’s known as “coronasomnia” — but it’s critical to keep a regular sleep schedule and get about eight hours of sleep a night, says Dr. Daniel Barone, a neurologist and sleep medicine expert at the Center for Sleep Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an associate professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Having a strong, healthy immune system gives us a little more of a barrier against developing a COVID infection, so it’s important to prioritize sleep,” says Dr. Barone.
Establish a regular bedtime and wake-up time, avoid caffeine later in the day, turn off your electronics before bedtime, set boundaries around your media consumption, exercise regularly, avoid naps, cut out alcohol, and pay attention to signs of sleep apnea.
4. Keeping yourself safe from COVID-19 and the flu
“Last year’s flu season was mild because many people were isolated because of COVID,” says Dr. Melissa Stockwell, chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Health at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “This year, we are concerned it will be a more severe season.”
Getting both vaccines at the same time can protect against the flu and the COVID-19, says Dr. Stockwell. “Studies show that people can receive both shot at the same time and it will not affect their immune response.”
Fortunately, the preventive measures for COVID-19 also apply for the flu: avoiding large crowds and gatherings, wearing a mask, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and staying at home when you feel sick. “A lot of people may be coughing and sneezing, so the likelihood of transmission is much higher when you’re having active symptoms,” says Dr. Ting Ting Wong, an attending physician and infectious disease specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. “These are all preventions for COVID as well as influenza transmission.”
It is particularly important for pregnant women to protect themselves against flu and COVID-19 by getting vaccines. Flu shots are safe and effective for babies, says Dr. Laura Riley, obstetrician and gynecologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, but it also protects babies who are born during flu season, which runs from October through April. Flu vaccinations given to pregnant women reduce the risk of hospitalization from influenza by about 70% for infants younger than 6 months old. As for COVID-19: ““According to Dr. Riley, epidemiological evidence suggests that pregnancy and COVID-19 are not the best combination. Pregnant women had more ICU admissions, more mechanical ventilation, and more deaths, although the absolute numbers are low. On the flip side, you have a vaccine that can prevent severe illness..”
5. Make sure you stick to your plan
You can stick with your plan, says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychoanalyst and assistant attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine, no matter what your goals are. She suggests:
- Own up to what needs to change.
- Set weekly goals and corresponding action plans.
- Start by writing an entry that begins with “Why?”
- Then create incentives.
- Let others know.