By Rachel Ly, Feb. 23, 2021
As the one-year anniversary of virtual instruction approaches, students are battling multiple health crises associated with social distancing and remote learning that demand students stay home more than ever.
While some students are making positive strides toward their health and fitness goals, many are struggling to maintain their overall wellbeing. Before the pandemic, students engaged in daily physical activities, like walking around campus and standing at work. However, staying indoors and adjusting to a sedentary lifestyle can take a toll on the mind, body and spirit.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, “Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.”
However, some students are having difficulty managing their physical activity levels at home during virtual instruction.
Sofia Rosales, a second-year political science student, said, “Many other students and I feel that our professors have assigned more homework than we initially had during in-person classes, which does not help when you have a schedule where it is already hard to find time for physical activity.”
Finding the right balance between exercise and remote learning is not easy. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 and prioritizing the safety of others requires sacrifice.
Rosales added, “My mental health is OK. I am someone who loves being in school, but these online classes are killing me. However, if it means staying home and not getting sick, I’ll stick with this for as long as necessary.”
Although going for a run or working out at home may seem like tedious chores, Zakkoyya Lewis-Trammell, an associate professor at the Kinesiology and Health Promotion Department and exercise physiologist, recommends taking small steps.
“Mental health is a big concern. By making big goals for yourself, you might not meet them. This will demotivate you and make you fall off completely,” Lewis-Trammell said. “Small successes let you know that you can do it. Over time, these small things become habits leading to big changes.”
According to Lewis-Trammell, baby steps can be as minor as sitting less and taking breaks from the computer screen. Standing engages the body in a different way than sitting does as the muscles will not feel as tight later on.
Additionally, the Help Guide suggests to “move around while you are on a call, stand for an online meeting, do squats or lunges while you’re waiting for a meeting to start or jumping jacks in front of the TV during the credits or commercial breaks.”
High stress levels contribute to the lack of mindful eating habits. Ordering take-out from food delivery services like Postmates, UberEats and DoorDash is convenient with its ability to satisfy any craving with a click of a button.
However, according to Lewis-Trammell, there is a lack of food access in the community — especially during the pandemic when some of the healthy food at the grocery store is out of stock.
“The Pomona area is a food desert,” Lewis-Trammell said. “We have our farm store, but in the greater community, there is a smaller portion of produce to choose from. When you cannot leave the house, there are higher rates of ordering in food.”
Despite the temptations, the University of Maryland Medical System advises students aiming to find healthier alternatives through take-out to consider “avoiding French fries, going easy on the cheese, passing on anything fried and making sure sauces are not oily or sugar-sweetened.” They recommend ordering anything with “grilled chicken, fish, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and whole-grain pasta.”
With more students struggling to make ends meet and worrying about the health of their loved ones, it is understandable that sleep and diet are not a priority but maintaining a regular sleeping schedule is crucial for promoting a healthy lifestyle.
According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep significantly impacts physical health and the immune system. It is also “a key promoter of emotional wellness and mental health, helping to beat back stress, depression, and anxiety,” as stated in its sleep guidelines.
Fortunately, some students like third-year computer information systems student Maya Lopez-Quezada ensure maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule amid the pandemic. “I don’t skip out on sleep. It is the one thing I have to do, including day naps,” she said.
A few tips to build better sleeping habits include reserving the bed for sleep instead of doing work on it, letting in light by opening windows, cutting downtime on social media and being cautious about caffeine intake.
Being in a global pandemic may seem lonely, but many students are facing an array of mental and physical health dilemmas together. Cal Poly Pomona community members, however, have access to variety of virtual support programs the school has to offer.
The Kinesiology and Health Promotion Department is conducting a physical activity and social media field study where participants can win a Fitbit. For more information, visit https://cpp.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2ggizEEph4y79rv.
For mental health services, the Counseling and Psychological Services is hosting a semester-long “Healing Spaces” series for those dealing with racial trauma, anxiety, depression and pandemic-related stress. To learn more visit, https://www.cpp.edu/caps/index.shtml.
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