‘Each time there’s a commercial break, take a lap around the house’: Experts encourage healthy stay-at-home habits

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For many Vermonters, staying at home to contain the sperad of COVID-19 has reduced the opportunity for exercise, changed how they eat and upended other daily routines.

Under normal circumstances, people may have reached their daily exercise goal by walking to the car or strolling around the office. But routines we once relied on must be replaced with new habits.

While working from home might have you in a sedentary mindset, Sherrie Khadanga, assistant director of the UVM Cardiac Rehab Program, said it doesn’t have to be that way.

“You’re watching television, each time there’s a commercial break, you can just get up and take a lap around the house,” Khadanga said. “One of the things I try to encourage my patients to do is play your favorite song and dance around to it in the kitchen when you’re doing meal prep.”

Daily exercise routines might have also helped dictate meal schedules. If you feel that’s been thrown out the window too, you aren’t alone.

“What I’m seeing in my clinic with patients is not that they’re eating less, but that they’re eating more,” she said. “Because they find themselves working at home, there’s ample opportunities to snack.”

For those at high risk for cardiac issues, Khadanga said the stay-at-home order can be a good time to begin healthy meal routines, while making the most of what resources you have.

“For a lot of people, they’ve used this as an opportunity to get creative working in the kitchen, and looking at some heart healthy recipes, the American Heart Association has some really great tips,” Dr. Khadanga said.

Dr. Mary Cushman of the University of Vermont said long-term changes in how Americans work could worsen existing health crises. She recently appeared in an American Heart Association webinar with Khadanga and Jan Carney, associate dean for Public Health and Health Policy at UVM Larner College of Medicine.

“The obesity epidemic that we’re already in the midst of is going to escalate,” Cushman said. “That leads to the chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, all these things that shorten our lives.”

In the short-term, Cushman said deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are the most common concerns related to inactivity. Symptoms include pain or swelling of the leg, chest pain, and sudden difficulty in breathing.

“These are serious symptoms that require you to contact your healthcare provider,” Cushman said. “If you are in distress, you should call 9-1-1.”

Healthcare professionals have emphasized since the COVID-19 pandemic began that emergency calls should still be made if anyone experiences a medical event. Doctors are prepared to assist safely.

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