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Covid-19, how to follow an appropriate and healthy lifestyle when staying at home

The current pandemic emergency caused by the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus infection has led the Italian Government to enforce containment measures, in order to counter the spread of the virus in Italy.

These measures include reducing the movement of people from their homes, which is only allowed in cases of need, and the use of smart work (working from home) wherever possible. This entails a change in our lifestyles, especially in terms of dealing with our physical activity and eating habits.

Regarding the current situation, taking care to maintain a balanced lifestyle is very important to safeguard our mental and physical health. With this aim in mind, the Italian Ministry of Health has published on its website dedicated to the new coronavirus a full page devoted to the theme of lifestyles at the time of Covid-19, in order to provide citizens with simple and practical  behaviour guidelines.

Please find below a summary of the advice contained in the page dealing with appropriate lifestyles at this time.

Nutrition

It is essential to adopt a varied and balanced diet, in order to ensure a healthy supply of all the nutrients required for the proper functioning of our body. Daily/weekly intake should take into account the different food groups: cereals, pulse, tubers, fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and eggs, milk and dairy products.  Therefore, a combination of different foods, each providing energy and specific nutrients, should be consumed every day. It is also important to divide the daily caloric intake of food in the right proportion: breakfast 20%, morning snack 5%, lunch 40%, afternoon snack 5% and dinner 30%.

Practical tips for healthy eating:

  • Drink plenty of water every day (at least 1.5 litres)
  • Eat a variety of foods. Eating the same foods every day does not make a healthy diet.
  • Limit the use of salt and sugar
  • Eat food that provides at least 25 grams of dietary fibre per day.
  • Always have a healthy breakfast, possibly including milk or yoghurt and baked goods, and avoid skipping meals.
  • Eat at least 5 portions a day between fruit and vegetables (better if 2 portions of fruit and 3 of vegetables) for a total of at least 400 grams, varying the colours of the produce. Remember that fruit juice, even 100%, can never replace fresh fruit.
  • Eat cereals daily (bread, pasta, rice, etc.), giving priority to wholemeal cereals.
  • Eat fresh or frozen fish at least 2-3 times a week
  • Prefer white meat, limiting the consumption of red meat.
  • Remember that pulse provide good quality protein and fibre and include them in your diet at least 3-4 times a week, together with cereals.
  • Limit the consumption of foods rich in fat, salt and sugar and sugary drinks.
  • As a condiment, use extra virgin olive oil, in small quantities.
  • Prefer cooking methods such as steaming, grilling or baking, refrain from cooking adding large amounts of fat.

Remember that alcohol is not a food and there is no safe and recommended amount. It is better for your health to refrain from drinking alcohol. If you drink alcohol, limit the amount you drink and never exceed the low risk drinking threshold. Also, remember never to drink on an empty stomach and during working hours.

Exercise

To stay healthy, you need to "move", that is, walk, dance, play, etc. Scientific evidence shows that men and women of all ages may gain great benefit from 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise. Especially in the current situation, a little bit of exercise every day, even at home, becomes fundamental not only for our health, but also for our psychological well-being. Physical activity reduces stress and anxiety and improves mood and sleep quality.

Here are some useful tips for children and adults.

Children

Children need to play, be physically active and spend less time sitting in front of screens for a better quality of sleep. There are several activities you can do at home:

  • dancing or marching to music.
  • jumping on one foot or skipping around the house
  • have children help us with small chores (such as putting toys away, setting the table, helping with laundry), cooking or doing small gardening jobs.

The WHO indications on exercise for children

  • Infants (under one year of age) should move several times a day, in various ways, especially playing on the floor.  As for infants who still do not sit, crawl or walk, they should spend at least 30 minutes a day on their tummy (prone position).
  • Children 1-2 years of age should spend at least 180 minutes (even non-consecutive) doing an intense, moderate to vigorous physical activity throughout the day, and should not sit in baby seats, pushchairs etc. for more than 1 hour at a time, or sit for long periods of time. In addition, it is not recommended for 1-year old children to spend any time watching television, videos, or playing video games. 2 years old children should not spend more than one hour a day in front of a screen.
  • Children aged 3-4 years should spend at least 180 minutes on the move (even non-consecutive) engaging in different types of physical activity, including at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity throughout the day. At the same time, they should be encouraged not to spend too much time sitting down, and in any case no longer than an hour a day of screen time, preferring activities such as reading with an adult.
  •  Children and teenagers: 5-17 years: According to national guidelines, in line with the WHO guidelines, children and adolescents aged between 5 and 17 years should exercise at least 60 minutes per day, moderate to vigorous intensity.

Adults

Maintaining an active lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge, as opportunities to be physically active seem to be more limited. Therefore, it is even more important to plan our daily physical activity and reduce the time we spend in a sitting position. The current WHO recommendations on physical activity for the health of the adult population recommend that we carry out during the week a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity of moderate intensity or a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous activity plus strengthening exercises of the larger muscle groups, 2 or more times a week.

In this period of time, to stay active we can:

  • climb stairs as much as possible
  • do household chores while listening to music
  • play with children
  • dance to music
  • take part in free online exercise classes
  • do some muscle strengthening activities such as lifting weights, using bottles of water, or simply using our body weight
  • do series of push-ups
  • if available at home, use gym equipment such as exercise bikes, treadmills, elastics, small weights.
  • skip and jump rope
  • run and jump on site
  • repeatedly climb up and down a step
  • alternating between sitting and standing position regularly (e.g. every 30 minutes)
  • If you are working in smart working, take active breaks for a few minutes every half hour (e.g. short walks, bending over your legs, alternating sitting and standing position and stretching exercises).

In order to easily reach the minutes of physical activity recommended per day, you can also use a variety of "Video Tutorials" that are available free of charge online, describing simple and doable exercises, always taking special care to start gradually, if you are not well trained.



Data di pubblicazione: 8 aprile 2020 , ultimo aggiornamento 8 aprile 2020


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