• Hayoung (Talia) Cho & Kilin Tang

Taking Care of Your Health During a Pandemic Part I


“For more than 25 years, more than half of the adult population has been overweight or obese,” according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The rise in obesity rates is not going anywhere anytime soon—Harvard Medical School finds that the prevalence of obesity in the United States has increased by a whopping 50% over the past 40 years. Overall, Americans on average consume more and exercise less than we did 50 years ago.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that as a result of increased meat supply and production, Americans eat an average of 195lbs of meat per year, compared to 138lbs in the 1950s. We also eat 66% more added fats, in addition to consuming 45% more grain since 1970.

While a rapid increase in food consumption could potentially be countered by a similar increase in exercise, studies show the direct opposite trend. Rapid advancements in technology has shifted labor away from the farm and the factory and into the classic office desk workspace for the majority of Americans. In fact, The New York Times finds that “Jobs requiring moderate physical activity, which accounted for 50 percent of the labor market in 1960, have plummeted to just 20 percent.” The leisure and lure of Netflix, Tiktok, and Youtube doesn’t help either, resulting in Americans spending 55% of our waking hours sitting down. As a result, Americans burn an average of 120 to 140 fewer calories than we did 50 years ago, and all together, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 80% of Americans don’t exercise enough.

The rise in obesity rates shouldn’t be surprising given these statistics. Not only is it extremely unhealthy, but obesity kills. It’s often known for causing diabetes and heart disease, but obesity can also indirectly result in cancer, arthritis, depression, and kidney stones. Overall, nearly 1 in 10 Americans die as a result of the obesity epidemic.

This week, we will be focusing on how to physically stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first week will focus on the different diets, lifestyles, and techniques successful people use to maintain a strong physical health outlook, while the second week will provide you with  healthcare resources and detail the connection between poverty and healthcare. We hope that our blogs will inform the communities in the Greater Charlotte Area, among many others, about the importance of physical health, especially during these daunting times.

Food & Nutrition  

The US Department of Agriculture releases their Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. The following is a summary of the current 8th edition 2015-2020 guide:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

  • Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.

  • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. 

  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. 

  • Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

According to the American Heart Association, these are the servings suggestion for each food group: 

Vegetables: Fresh, frozen, canned and dried

  • 5 servings per day

  • E.g. 1 cup raw leafy greens, ½ cup cut-up vegetables, ½ cup cooked beans or peas, or ¼ cup 100% vegetable juice. 

Fruits: Fresh, frozen, canned and dried1

  • 4 servings per day

  • E.g. 1 medium whole fruit, ½ cup cut-up fruit, ¼ cup 100% fruit juice, or ¼ cup dried fruit

Grains: At least half should be whole grain/high in dietary fiber

  • 6 servings per day

  • E.g. 1 slice bread, 1 small tortilla, 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal flakes, 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal, or 1/2 cup popped popcorn

Dairy: Low-fat and fat-free

  • 3 servings per day

  • E.g. 1 cup milk, 1 cup yogurt, 1.5 oz cheese

Poultry, meat and eggs: Lean and extra-lean; skin and visible fat removed

  • 8-9 servings per week

  • E.g. 3 oz cooked meat or poultry, 1 egg or 2 egg whites

Fish and other seafood: Preferably oily fish that provide omega-3 fatty acids

  • 2-3 servings per week

  • E.g. 3 oz cooked fish or seafood

Nuts, seeds, beans and legumes

  • 5 servings per week

  • E.g. Tbsp peanut butter, 2 Tbsp or 1/2 oz nuts or seeds, ¼ cup cooked beans or peas

Fats and oils: Preferably unsaturated

  • 3 servings per day

  • E.g. 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (canola, corn, olive, soybean, safflower), 1 Tbsp soft margarine, 1 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise, or 1 Tbsp light salad dressing

Physical and Mental Health

The Norwalk Hospital says that “exercise is especially important now because it can reduce stress, prevent weight gain, boost the immune system, and improve sleep.” COVID-19 related closures of facilities such as gyms and fitness studios may make it harder for one to obtain the usual physical exercise, but there are options to safely engage in physical activity! 

1. Take an Online Exercising Course.

Many organizations are offering options such as those from Gaia, ClassPass, TracyAnderson, and DailyBurn. Not all classes require a fee and there are many free opportunities! 

*Check out our previous blog post for free yoga resources

2. Get Outdoors with Your Family. 

There are many options to physically exercise outdoors with just your family members such as hiking (find hiking places in the Charlotte area), biking (find biking trails in the Charlotte area), and jogging/running (find jogging trails in the Charlotte area). However, there are many opportunities such as playing backyard soccer games, mowing the lawn, or washing cars that may also provide physical exercise, while giving one a change of breathing in some fresh air. 

3. Set Goals 

According to Intermountain Healthcare, organization may improve sleep, reduce stress, reduce depression and anxiety and help one make better food choices. Keeping a daily, weekly, or monthly list of tasks to complete may be worth the time during the pandemic since this is a challenging time for everyone one of us, and it is crucial to maintain physical, but also mental health. 

*Read more on our Mental Health Series 

Stay safe!

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