How to stay active and eat healthy at home during COVID-19

March 25, 2020

With directions from federal, provincial and municipal governments to stay at home, it can be tempting to sit on the couch and binge watch TV shows. But with everyone ‘physical distancing’—the practice of minimizing contact with others—it can be difficult to stay healthy in self isolation.

We spoke with Scott Lear, SFU health sciences professor and the Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research, who wrote a blog post on how to stay healthy at home.

Q: Why is it important to stay active while at home?

Scott Lear: Sitting and watching TV all day may not be a big issue for one or two days, but ongoing sitting can lead to a number of health problems. Being active can lower anxiety, improve your wellbeing and support your immune system.


Q: What can people do to exercise if they don’t have any equipment?

SL: While you might think it hard to exercise at home, there are plenty of things you can do. From jumping jacks to burpees to push-ups, you can exercise without needing equipment. You can improvise some equipment with household items: milk jugs can be used as weights.

If you prefer an exercise-class setting, try one of the numerous YouTube videos such as this one. If you can get out, going for a walk or bike ride is great as long as you stay six feet away from others.

If you are sitting for long periods of time, even short two minute walks around the house can break up your day and improve your blood sugar.


Q: What kind of food should people consider getting to stay healthy?

SL: A lot of people have been stocking up on food and I noticed empty shelves of frozen and prepared food, which are unhealthy choices. These types of foods are highly processed and can increase your chances of getting heart disease and cancer.

It’s a challenge to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. But freezing them is a great option. You can also buy frozen fruits and vegetables, which are just as nutritious as fresh. If freezer space is a problem, try canned fruits and vegetables, along with canned fish such as sardines, salmon and tuna.


Q: With daily updates from a variety of news sources, how can people manage their anxiety?

SL: It can be challenging to keep calm when you’re bombarded with information and seeing videos of people stockpiling food. There are a lot of unknowns and misinformation that can add stress and spending so much time at home may only make it worse.

Checking the news every hour or so can add to anxiety. It’s important to be informed but not to be overwhelmed. If you find yourself becoming anxious by the flood of information, limit your time when checking-in on current events. For example, you can set aside time in the morning and at the end of the day to check in. Or just once per day, if you like. You’ll stay up to date without getting information overload.

Health sciences professor Scott Lear.

Find more information and tips on Lear’s blog.

This interview is an abridged version from professor Scott Lear’s blog. Responses have been edited.

Beyond the article:

  • SFU students (Grad & UGrad) can access free, immediate support 24/7 (chat or phone) with My SSP (Student Support Program).
  • Option to phone and pre-book appointments - request video, phone or in-person as well as language options.  Download the My SSP app to access articles and strategies to stay healthy and connected.
  • Call My SSP on 1.844.451.9700 (CAN/ US) or 001.416.380.6578 (international, charges may apply).
  • Visit SFU Health and Counseling Services to learn more