Six ways to stay healthy while keeping your distance

Wellness specialist Riley Thornton, a registered dietitian, recommends six ways for faculty and staff to stay well while working from home and practicing social distancing.

Written by: Haley Herfurth
Media contact: Adam Pope

Editor's Note: The information published in this story is accurate at the time of publication. Always refer to for UAB's current guidelines and recommendations relating to COVID-19.

SONY DSCDuring this global stay-at-home approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are working remotely for an extended period for the first time. That can mean a lot of disruption to normal routines, more sitting than usual and fewer opportunities for movement throughout the day.

Wellness specialist Riley Thornton, a registered dietitian, recommends six ways for faculty and staff to stay well while working from home and practicing social distancing.

Schedule movement breaks and lunchtime with calendar invitations.

If you work in an office, create a designated workspace and consistent work schedule similar to your daily routine, Thornton says. Send yourself calendar invitations to remind you to take a few laps down the hall or eat a healthy lunch.

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“This will keep you on task but away from mindlessly eating while working through the day,” Thornton said.

Do not deviate too much from your normal eating routine.

Individual eating schedules are unique to everyone, Thornton explains; but it is important that your eating habits stay stable even though the workplace changes. Focus on a variety of foods, balance consumption with physical activity, and remember to practice moderation.

“Try the new ‘Start Simple with MyPlate’ app from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set goals around trying different food groups and learn new ways to incorporate healthy food items,” she said. The app is available for iOS and Android.

Mixed race businesswoman stretching at deskCreate a menu and stick to it.

UAB Employee Wellness has dozens of healthy eating handouts available for viewing and download on their website at Turn fresh fruit into grilled fruit kebabs or canned veggies into black bean salad to give your lunch break (or dinner) some healthful flavor.

Get some exercise! Even indoors.

There are many exercises to be done inside the home, Thornton says, and for time periods ranging from five to 10 minutes to 25 minutes or longer.

If you have five to 10 minutes for activity, try YouTube-guided light stretching or yoga and incorporate some “deskercises,” recommended by the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, into your daily routine or jumping rope indoors or outdoors.

If you have 10-15 minutes, flow through one online yoga video — or, Thornton says, get a little groovy with it.

“Find two or three songs you and your family enjoy and have a dance party,” she said. 

If you have 25 minutes or more to exercise, check out free exercise videos from fitness coach Les Mills provided by UAB Recreation. Watch more than 100 videos with free access. Also try solo running, bike-riding, or even a new sport or activity in the yard with family members.

Thornton says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends physical activity breaks in the workplace, and suggests guided exercises for light, medium or more complex physical activities you can incorporate into your work schedule.

“Help facilitate one of the group stretching exercises as a way to start or end your next team conference call,” Thornton said.

Chinese businesswoman using laptop and eatingGet outdoors if you can.

To get some Vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones because it helps the body use calcium, Thornton recommends a solo walk, run or bike ride around your neighborhood, or try a new sport or activity in the yard or local park if you are at home with family members.

“Being outside is a great way to incorporate physical activity while relieving stress and get Vitamin D if you don’t already through diet alone,” she said.

Practice mindfulness to stave off feeling overwhelmed.

Try unplugging from social media if you feel inundated with information or bad news, Thornton recommends.

“Or, call a friend or family member during your next walk to catch up and reflect on the things you’re most grateful for,” she said.

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