Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine, most Americans are looking forward to a renewed social life in the not-so-distant future.
But preparing to ditch the sweatpants and show off our maskless (gasp!) smiles has many of us realizing just how much of a toll all that time at home took on our health and wellness.
According to a survey conducted by HealthInsurance.com, 55 percent of respondents reported that they had gained weight during the pandemic, with individuals ages 18 to 34 experiencing the most impact. Additionally, 31 percent of respondents reported that they had increased their consumption of alcohol.
Beyond weight gain, there are many other unhealthy habits people picked up during the pandemic.
More than 40 percent of respondents reported that they have avoided going to a hospital or doctor’s office for medical treatments over fear that they could contract COVID. That means serious — but preventable — diseases may have gone undetected as patients skipped their routine appointments and screenings.
Fortunately, whether you’ve been putting off weight loss, dentist visits or another health need, there are several steps you can take to get your personal health back on track.
If you put on some extra weight during the pandemic, the good news is you’re not alone! I myself recently realized I gained 10 pounds while in quarantine. Like most people, the culprit was a reduced focus on exercise and an increased focus on cooking up delicious comforting meals with all the extra time I had on hand.
When it came to losing weight, my own journey to drop those pandemic pounds was a wake-up call not only to get my body back in shape but also to develop a healthier lifestyle all around.
I found filling my refrigerator with healthy foods including lean meats, grains, and fruits and vegetables was a good place to start. It encouraged me to stop mindlessly snacking and be more intentional about what I was feeding myself, and my family.
Committing to a new exercise routine can feel daunting, but even small changes like adding a daily walk can reap great benefits.
One study found 11 women lost 17 pounds each after six months of brisk daily walking. For those looking for more, virtual workouts and in-home cycling are certainly popular ways to get moving. Personally, I’m thankful most gyms in my area have reopened for maskless classes — in-home workouts just weren’t for me.
Beyond diet and exercise, it’s crucial to make sure any annual screenings that may have been postponed by the pandemic are tended to sooner rather than later.
Dental cleanings, cancer screenings and annual physical examinations can be a great way to get feedback from medical professionals who can detect any hidden diseases before they become serious problems.
While telemedicine has many upsides — there’s a reason 50 percent of people have turned to it during the pandemic — sometimes there’s no substitution for in-person screening.
Although much of the country is starting to reopen, 49 percent of people said they had not yet returned to life as it was before the pandemic. That means almost half of us might be only just beginning our journey to a healthier self.
So go out and buy that new dress or jacket and stock up on that teeth whitener. But be sure to tackle some long-term ways to get your personal health and wellness in order along the way.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.