It can feel difficult to stay healthy when so much around us is changing. And while we can all do our bit to stop coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading, it’s also really important to look after our bodies and minds.
The good news is there are plenty of options to keep you feeling at your best whether in lockdown, shielding, or just getting used to a new routine. And long-term, these healthy changes can also help to reduce your risk of cancer.
This page is for people without cancer who are looking for ways to stay healthy at home.
Healthy eating at home
When it comes to eating healthily, spending more time at home changes the game. Here are our tips for a healthy balanced diet in or out of lockdown:
Make smart swaps
Lots of us are shopping less often nowadays. So it’s a good time to think about reaching for the healthy options first. Try swapping processed and red meat for a new protein like chicken, fish, or veggie options like pulses. Pulses, such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, are great in pasta dishes, curries and stews to name a few.
Be snack savvy
Opt for healthier snacks like fresh fruit, low fat and low sugar yoghurt, or a handful of plain nuts. Buying fewer high fat and high sugar options can help too – look for mostly green on traffic light labels. And don’t forget to cut down on sugary drinks too!
Fit in more fibre
Switch to wholemeal and brown bread, rice and pasta if you can. And don’t forget your 5 a-day! Tinned and frozen fruit and veg can be just as nutritious as fresh (look for no added sugar or salt products).
Make the most of meal planning.
Preparing healthy meals in advance can be a great way to make diet changes easier. Try cooking meals in bulk and freeze or refrigerate portions to enjoy on busy days. It’s often cheaper to cook this way too!
The diagram below shows how different food groups make up a healthy balanced diet. Fruits, vegetables and carbs (like brown rice, brown pasta and potatoes) should make up most of your diet. Lean proteins (like chicken, fish and pulses) and dairy or dairy alternatives are important too, but these make up a smaller part of a healthy diet.
Drinking less alcohol in a pandemic
The government recommends people who drink alcohol should have less than 14 units each week. Keeping track of how much alcohol you’re drinking could help you to cut down. Tracking can also help you figure out what works for you when you’re trying to make a change. Here are our top tips for drinking less alcohol:
- Try to find other ways to unwind and have more alcohol free days.
- Don’t stock up on alcohol - having alcohol at home might make it more likely that you’ll have a drink.
- Try sticking to only drinking with meals - this can help reduce how much you have in an evening.
- Freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays to use in cooking.
- Try low or no alcohol versions of your usual drink.
Exercising at home
At times like these, exercise can feel more difficult. But being active is a great way to keep a healthy weight, and helps to combat stress as we get used to new ways of living.
Get active indoors
There are lots of online workout videos to choose from. But if that’s not your thing, you can still get active around the house. Walking up and down stairs, dancing to the radio, mopping, hoovering, gardening, or playing with the kids all count. As long as you’re getting a bit out of breath.
Get active from your chair
Seated exercises are a great way to make the most of the time you spend watching TV or working at a desk, and ideal for those with limited mobility. Check out the NHS website for ideas.
Take phone calls on the move
If you’re sitting all day, get up on your feet and take a brisk walk whilst catching up with friends, family and colleagues.
Take on a new challenge.
Having a goal in mind can be a great motivator. Try setting a goal for miles biked, stairs climbed, or challenge yourself with an active Cancer Research UK fundraiser.
Free stop smoking support
If you smoke, now is a good time to think about stopping. Whilst we’re spending more time at home, stopping smoking helps to protect those we live with from second-hand smoke. And it reduces your risk of lung infections too.
Even though we’re all keeping our distance at the moment, you don’t have to go it alone! Give yourself the best chance of stopping for good by visiting the NHS Smokefree website to find your free, local stop smoking service.
There are lots of different ways to stop smoking. Stop smoking services help you find what works for you with support in person, on the phone or by video call.
You can also download the Smokefree app for more advice and support.
Enjoying the sun safely
Whether you’re exercising in the park or relaxing on a balcony or in the garden, it’s important to protect your skin when the sun is strong.
In the UK, the sun’s UV rays can be strong between 11am and 3pm from mid-March to mid-October. Think about protecting your skin:
1. Spend more time in the shade
2. Cover up with clothes, a wide-brimmed hat and UV protective sunglasses.
3. And use a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and 4 or 5 stars. Use it generously, reapply regularly and use in combination with shade and clothing.
Contacting your GP remotely
If you notice something that’s not normal for you, take charge and contact your doctor. Because of coronavirus, doctors are talking to people on the phone or online first. Get in touch with your GP surgery to arrange a call – it’s still important and you won’t be wasting their time.
COVID-19 is also affecting screening programmes in the UK.
And remember to look after your mind as well as body. You might be feeling anxious or worried right now. Check out Every Mind Matters or Mind for guidance, advice and tips on mental wellbeing at home.