Original Publication – May 2020
If you are like me, the “shelter in place” that has been going on since March 20, 2020, in New York is either getting old or has gotten old already. The four phrases most of us never want to hear again are “social distancing”, “flatten the curve”, “epicenter”, and “new normal”. In the meantime there is a new phrase that has come out of this pandemic referred to as the “quarantine-15”; in other words, the 15 extra pounds most people will gain by staying home and binge eating while binge watching assorted electronic programming. Staying home was supposed to keep us safe but just as the COVID19 spread has been called an “invisible enemy” so will the insidious detriment of everyone’s cardiac risk panels on their next routine blood testing at their yearly physical. Looks like Big Pharma will see an increase in statin sales when this is all settled. In the mean time what can we all do to avoid the “quarantine-15”? The simple answer is move!
According to The Physical Activity Guidelines, 2018 the following are the “Key Activity Guidelines for Adults” in America ( https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf#page=55 ):
- Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.
- For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week (~30-90 minutes per day).
- Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
The website www.verywellfit.com recommends more than 30 minutes of continuous physical activity daily to lose weight for the following reasons: “During the first 30 minutes of exercise, your body is burning sugars stored as fuel. These are used up after about 30 minutes. To keep going, your body releases fat from your fat cells and burns it for fuel. This stored fat is exactly what you want to lose, and it’s a good reason to build up your walking endurance so you can walk for more than 30 minutes at a time”.
Here are some examples of moderate physical activity recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines: walking briskly (2.5 miles per hour or faster), recreational swimming, bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour on level terrain, tennis (doubles), active forms of yoga (for example, power yoga), ballroom or line dancing, general yard work and home repair work, and exercise classes like water aerobics.
Strengthening exercises provide added benefits that endurance activities do not offer. Some simple strengthening exercises, which most people can perform even if they are generally inactive include: bent knee pushups, forearm planks, toe raises, and squats or wall sits. These exercises strengthen key areas of the body to maintain or improve general function. Most guidelines including www.health.gov recommend that strengthening exercises be performed at least two times per week.
Considering our current situation of the widespread governmental quarantine of healthy individuals we need to make sure that we minimize the unintended consequence of creating compromised immune systems in healthy individuals. Physical activity has been shown to improve the body’s immune system. Therefore, allowing self-isolation to reduce our activity levels will ultimately reduce our immune responses. If the goal of quarantine was to reduce the spread of infection, I am afraid this mission will be a failure if citizens fail to maintain or increase activity levels and curtail the craving for “survival foods” high in calories. The reduced activity, alteration in eating habits, and ultimate reduction in immune response of otherwise healthy individuals will result in a delayed uptick in most flu or viral cases once the quarantine is rescinded. According to the journal Frontiers in Immunology, 2018, “Contemporary evidence from epidemiological studies shows that leading a physically active lifestyle reduces the incidence of communicable (e.g., bacterial and viral infections) and non-communicable diseases (e.g., cancer), implying that immune competency is enhanced by regular exercise bouts”.
While I am sure you have ample pasta, rice, Dinty Moore® Beef Stew, and toilet paper, you will still find plenty of perishable healthy food available in the produce section. Shop in that section of the store. When you finish dinner, the dishes have been washed and put away, take the family for a “constitutional”, also known as a walk.
Dr. Buchberger is a licensed chiropractor, physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist with 32 years of clinical sports injury experience. Dr. Buchberger can be contacted at 315-515-3117 or www.activeptsolutions.com.