By Ross Pope, PT, DPT, CIMT, Cert DN
The year 2020 has been a year of focus for some time now. I can remember being in professional school and learning about the 2020 goals the APTA had established in the year 2000. They had a vision for 20 years. Personally, I have circled this year since 2015. This would be the year that Arkansas would add Tennessee back on the football schedule. A game that I look forward to every 5 years. However, as we all know, the year 2020 has been a blur.
2020 got off to a great start: the economy was booming, sports were in full swing, and everything looked to be headed in the right direction. Little did we know, the world as we knew it was about to drastically change. The word “pandemic” was just a word, but that word came alive in mid-March and brought on a whole new meaning. This was something that the world had never seen, full of changes (too many to list), and so many uncertainties. But even with all of the unknowns of this virus, there is something I have observed over the past year.
COVID-19 is real. It is an actual virus that has affected thousands of people, and unfortunately has taken the life of many people, as well. I wish we knew the answer to why some people do not show symptoms and why it is so detrimental to others, but with any novel virus, the answers to those questions will be more clear over time. A common link that I have seen is that it tends to have a greater effect on people who have co-morbidities. Hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and COPD are just a few that seem to aid in the severity of the symptoms. With that said, there are always exceptions and there have been reports of “healthy” individuals who have a harder time recovering from the virus as well.
The most common co-morbidities that I have listed above are also, for the most part, controllable. They can be controlled through living a healthier lifestyle, and the easiest way to transition into living a healthier lifestyle is by exercising and choosing the right foods to eat. This does not mean that you have to start a diet. Diets do not last! But a lifestyle change does. If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, you must become consistent in choosing healthier foods and exercising. Once you do this, you will see permanent changes to you health. Exercise and proper nutrition have been proven to lower blood pressure, help you manage your blood sugar and insulin levels, improve cholesterol, improve immune function, and decrease chances of heart disease. There are also many other benefits, but these benefits seem to be the most important during this pandemic.
It’s never too late to begin living a healthier lifestyle. You don’t have to wait until January 1, 2021. Is it easy? Absolutely not! Does it mean that you can’t splurge or eat bad foods? Absolutely not! If you consistently choose healthier foods and become more active, I can promise you that you will see the benefits. So if you want to make a change, I suggest that you talk to someone about healthier food options, begin an exercise program, join a gym, or go for a walk/run, just to name a few. Make the change because you want to be healthier and you want to improve your quality of life. That way if something surprises us again, hopefully it will not have the impact that we are seeing in 2020 with COVID-19.