Being at home this long distorts the body, weakens the heart and lungs, and even affects brain function. The effects of living in isolation can stay with us beyond the end of the pandemic (whenever that may be the case).
This is what half a year of isolation, staying at home, and sitting can do to your body.
Home for a week, Whether you are working, eating, or sleeping can feel reassuring and necessary. But all that inactivity can undo hard-won progress.
That’s because it can take months to build muscle and only a week to lose. Despite all of our hardiness, people also lose muscle faster as they age, said Keith Baar, professor of molecular exercise physiology at the University of California at Davis.
When you lose muscle, you don’t necessarily lose mass, but you lose strength, which Baar says is one of the “strongest indicators” of how long you’ll live.
“The stronger we stay, the easier it is for us to maintain our longevity.”
Your heart and lungs weaken
If you don’t exercise, you are not increasing your heart rate. And when your heart doesn’t pump so hard, it gets weaker, said Baar.
The same thing happens to your lungs when you’re inactive, said Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonologist from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He said many of his patients feel that their respiratory function is deteriorating because they are no longer conditioned to move.
People with poor lung health are already considered more susceptible to coronavirus as it is a respiratory disease. Therefore, they are likely to stay at home to reduce the risk of infection. But if they don’t move and increase blood flow to their lungs, their pre-existing condition can still harm them.
Exercise is the only key to improving heart and lung function – “No drug can do that,” said Galiatsatos. If it’s not safe to leave home, Baar recommends dancing or finding household items for strength training at home – think about deadlifting with milk jugs.
You gain fat
If you are at home all day, you are probably only yards from your pantry. Depending on your perspective, this is either convenient or dangerous.
With such easy access, your “feeding” window, or the amount of time you eat most of your meals, can expand from 10 or 12 hours a day to 15 hours a day – more than half a day, whatever Your insulin levels rise. Insulin promotes fat storage and the conversion of other fat molecules into fat, said Giles Duffield, an associate professor of anatomy and physiology at Notre Dame University who studies circadian rhythms and metabolism, among other things.
Overeating is also a problem as early on in the pandemic, many people stock up on non-perishable food in the event of supply shortages, Duffield said. Many non-perishable foods are highly processed and high in sugar and starch.
Weight gain during times of intense stress is normal and 2020 has been relentlessly stressful. However, weight gain becomes dangerous when it turns into obesity. Then your body could begin to resist insulin and chronic health problems like metabolic diseases or diabetes could develop, Duffield said.
Your posture is affected
We all have a sitting position that we subconsciously sink into – slumped forward, shoulders hunched; Spine puckered, neck bent; elbows on your chest.
However, sitting and lying down all day can seriously affect your posture and put strain on your back, neck, shoulders, hips and eyes, said Brandon Brown, epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of California’s Center for Healthy Communities – Riverside.
Brown suggests getting up from your seat once an hour, walking around, and stretching for a moment. You could even lie on the floor and “readjust your back,” he said.
Your sleep is suffering
At least half of Americans save on vitamin D, which helps maintain bone density and keep fatigue at bay. You are definitely one of them when you are at home with the curtains drawn for most of your day, Duffield said.
Getting enough sunlight in the morning can synchronize your body’s circadian rhythms, Duffield said. So if you’re closed all week or work in the dark, your sleep can suffer too.
Brown said as long as you are walking or exercising, gardening, or other activities that drag you outside a little, you don’t have to worry about getting enough sunlight. If you can’t get out of the house or the weather doesn’t allow you, artificial bright light can help your body adjust in the morning, Duffield said, as can avoiding blue light at night.
Your brain is slowing down
A sedentary lifestyle can also slow your brain down.
Exercise produces certain chemicals in the brain that break down toxins in the blood and even prevent them from getting to the brain, where they can kill brain cells, Baar said.
If you don’t exercise, you won’t break down any amino acid by-products as efficiently as neurotoxins in the brain.
The effects of isolation are insidious – like the pandemic, after months of seclusion, physical symptoms are often only apparent when they become harmful or extreme.
It is also possible to fend off these symptoms before they finally appear.
Prioritizing your mental and physical health while staying at home takes some work, but it’s a healthier way of coping with insecurity than staying in hospital until Covid-19 is no longer a threat, health experts say. And when it is safe to live fully again, you will be prepared.