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How to Stay Healthy at Home During the Coronavirus Lockdown

Health + Wellness
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By Charli Shield

At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.


But there are still lots of things you can do — aside from social distancing and washing your hands with soap — to protect your health and wellbeing.

Eating Well 

Without a vaccine, none of us can entirely eliminate our risk of contracting coronavirus. And experts say that's still 18 to 24 months away.

But eating as healthily as possible is important not only for our physical health, but our psychological well-being, too. A healthy diet has been shown to reduce our risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, as well as depression and anxiety.

You don't have to follow a particular diet, just avoid processed foods as they tend to be high in sugar.

The best foods for our mental health are generally the healthiest foods. Complex carbohydrates, found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains, provide important nourishment for our brains as they slowly release energy, which also stabilizes our moods.

A balanced diet ideally includes a variety of foods high in vitamins A, B, C, D and E, as well as the minerals iron, zinc and selenium.

B vitamins, found in green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, beans, bananas, eggs, poultry, fish and beetroot, are important for our brain and it's happiness chemicals, serotonin and dopamine. A lack of B6, B12 and folate (B9) are common in cases of depression.

It's also vital to look after our gut health, which a growing body of research shows has a remarkable impact on our mood and behavior. Prebiotics and probiotics, found in fermented foods like kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt can reduce inflammation, boost our moods and cognitive function.

In its tips for coping with the stress of the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) reminds us not to "use smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions." They recommend speaking to a health worker or counsellor if you're feeling overwhelmed.

Sleeping Soundly

Sleep is essential for our bodies to repair cells, clear toxins, consolidate our memories and process information. There's good evidence that sleep deprivation can have major impacts on our health — negatively affecting our psychological wellbeing concentration and even our emotional intelligence.

It can also increase our risk of developing chronic health conditions, like diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Just like our schedules for eating, working and exercising, it's important to sustain a regular sleep routine. For most people, between six to nine hours a night is sufficient. Going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day can help maintain a sense of normality, and help you follow through with plans.

If you're finding it difficult to get to sleep because you're lying awake worrying, try to limit your consumption of the news before bed. It can also be helpful to reduce your exposure to screens in the evening, as the effect of the blue light on our retinas can disrupt our sleep quality.

Exercising Enough

Exercise releases chemicals in the body that make us feel good, and it's also been linked to better sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved memory and cognition.

Team sports may be off the agenda, but you can certainly still exercise on your own, says Marcus Thormann, owner of a high-tech fitness studio in western Germany. He recommends moderate movement for 30 minutes per day, as backed by the WHO.

"You can even break that up into 10 minute sections — 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon, and 10 in the evening. When you've established that as a daily routine, then your day will be better structured as well," he told DW.

Many fitness instructors — yoga and pilates, personal trainers, dance teachers — are offering their classes online during the outbreak, some of them for free. All you need is a mat or towel on the floor and a reliable internet connection.

Or, as Thormann points out, just a good dose of creativity. "I saw a social media post about a guy who used his 7-meter balcony, so about 20 feet in length, to run an entire marathon."

While that's "a very extreme example," Thormann says, there are many ways to stimulate your body's circulation. He suggests "walking up and down the stairs in your home, or in your building, for example. Or, you could jog in place inside, or do some shadow boxing, or jumping jacks, or sit-ups, or push-ups."

While the area you can roam outside might be limited during lockdown, going outdoors, even briefly, has been shown to improve people's state of mind. Even if a short walk once per day is all you can manage, research suggests just two hours a week in nature is linked with better health and wellbeing.

But be careful not to exercise if you have flu-like symptoms, or if you feel exhausted.

Social Connection 

Now more than ever, we need our friends. Evidence shows that social connectedness is as important for our health as diet, movement and sleep.

No, you can't have a dinner party or a picnic in lockdown — in person! But not all social interactions have to be face-to-face to be meaningful. Try recreating them through video calls — you could organize a virtual dinner via apps like Zoom, Houseparty or good old Google Hangouts, or take a friend on a virtual walk or do a housebound activity together, like craft or drawing.

Think of it as being distantly social

Calming Activities

While it might seem like the world is only talking about one topic right now, enforced social isolation could also provide the perfect opportunity for many people to take a break from the news cycle.

What do you usually not have time for? Gardening, cooking, pickling, puzzles, craft, sewing, learning to meditate, building furniture, reading that pile of books on your bedside?

Now could be the perfect time to do them all, or some, or half of a few — whatever you can manage.

Through it all, remember as the WHO has advised, to "draw on skills you have used in the past that have helped you manage previous adversities."

Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.

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The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

But the pair are only the frontmen of a much larger movement which has been in development for several years. In addition to a panel of experts who will decide on the winners, the prize's formation took advice from the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Jack Ma Foundation.

With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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