How Do You Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle While in Quarantine? (podcast)

Healthy eating and exercise help so does staying connected

Scripps integrative medicine doctor, Marni Hillinger.

Dr. Marni Hillinger, Integrative Medicine, Scripps Clinic

Healthy eating and exercise help so does staying connected

For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our daily routines and left us stuck at home. It may have seemed like a nice break at first, but now several months in the novelty has worn off and the extra pounds have piled on.

It’s understandable that in quarantine a healthy diet became less of a concern and workouts got put on hold. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to get back on track.


In this episode of San Diego Health, host Susan Taylor and guest Marni Hillinger, MD, an integrative physiatrist at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, discuss how to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the pandemic. Structuring your daily life can help retain a sense of normalcy — get up at the same time, shower, make breakfast — as can regular exercise, good sleep and keeping in touch with loved ones.


The benefits of making healthy lifestyle changes and sticking with them will stretch far beyond COVID, Dr. Hillinger says. They can also help prevent chronic illnesses down the line.

Listen to the episode on how to stay healthy during pandemic

Listen to the episode on how to stay healthy during pandemic

Podcast highlights

Podcast highlights

How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle while in quarantine? (0:51)

There are a number of things that we can do. I try to break it down into what can we do for movement, for nutrition, for sleep improvement, and to make sure we’re maintaining connections with others. All those factors are so important. I try to look at ways that we can do each of those things.

Getting up in the morning and showering and doing the things you normally do for your regular job can provide some normalcy to your day. Figure out the things that make you feel more whole. Whether it’s planning for a delicious meal in the morning or making sure you get out for that walk at lunch, those kinds of things help us to not only stay grounded but also to feel a sense of normalcy amidst the uncertainty.

How often should you exercise? (2:07)

This can really vary person to person. It depends on your lifestyle. I always encourage my patients to think about what works best for their own day. Whether it’s getting up and doing it in the morning or waiting till after work, it really depends on your own individual schedule. There are many ways to go about doing it, whether it’s running outside or doing a video at home. There are a lot of resources online now both free and numerous apps as well.

The current recommendations for adults are to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That could be broken up into 30-minute segments or whatever feels right for you.

With moderate exercise, you really want to be building up a little bit of a sweat. If you think about talking to somebody, you could get out a short conversation, but not a long conversation easily.

You can use resistance armbands. This is one of my favorite tools. You can get them very inexpensively on Amazon or online. There is a number of different videos you can follow.

You can also get your exercise walking the dog, playing with the kids, with your spouse, with your partner, with your friends outside in a park. It all counts as good movement. We’re meant to move.

How do you stay socially connected during quarantine? (4:40)

This is a huge one. We are definitely social beings. So, making sure we find even small ways to do it is important. You can take a walk with a good friend, but social distance and put your mask on.

Go outside or check in with loved ones via phone or FaceTime. Even small interactions can go a really long way into making us feel connected.

What about taking computer breaks? What is 20, 20, 20? (5:31)

After you’ve been looking at your computer screen for 20 minutes, look away approximately 20 feet for 20 seconds and this will really give your eyes a nice break from staring up close at your computer screen.

What should you have and not have in your refrigerator? (5:49)

I love all the fresh fruits and vegetables that we are so lucky to have here in San Diego. Stock your fridge with fresh veggies and fruits. Put them in clear containers right at the front of your refrigerator or your freezer. If you’re using frozen veggies or frozen fruit, make them easy to find. You cannot go wrong with eating more plants.

We also want to try to be moderate with the amount of processed food that we’re consuming right now, such as sugary foods. We want to be aware of how much alcohol we’re consuming as well.

There are some sweet things you could have. Dark chocolate is wonderful. Just look for it to be over 70%. You’ll get those great antioxidants and it will taste delicious..

What are the benefits of making lifestyle changes? (7:01)

There are so many. When we think about chronic diseases, employing these healthy lifestyle techniques can really go distances in preventing chronic illnesses like heart disease and certain cancers, and even help with our memory and mental abilities as we grow older.

What should you do to get a good night’s sleep? (7:23)

The optimal amount of sleep for most people is between seven and nine hours per night. That’ll vary depending on that person, a little more, a little less. I always talk about having a ritual when we’re getting ready to go to sleep. It could be drinking your favorite cup of tea, reading a few pages of a book or reading to your children. Make sure you’re powering down any electronics an hour before you actually want to be sleeping. That will really help your body naturally get ready for sleep.

What are SMART goals? (8:05)

SMART goals are a way that we can really design the goals that we want to attain. It stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

If I would like to start exercising more, for example, I would say: Okay, I haven’t exercised in a while. Let’s start doing 10 minutes of exercise, two times a week, at eight o'clock in the morning. It’s relevant to my life because I want to be able to run around and chase my kids and I’m going to make this happen by a certain time.

Lightly edited for clarity

Watch the video on maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the pandemic

Watch the San Diego Health video with host Susan Taylor and Dr. Hillinger discussing ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the coronavirus pandemic.

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