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If last spring looked and felt like nothing else in recent memory, well, this spring is a little different, too. Don't get me wrong. Those of us who have emerged relatively unscathed from the coronavirus pandemic — with the protection of a full dose of vaccine in our arms — feel grateful, and relieved. It's just that we may also be feeling a whole lot of other things, from overweight to anxious to seriously burned out from working at home while juggling ever-present family obligations. (Some of those family members may be sitting close enough right now that we can hear them chewing.)
Plus, studies back up the idea that the high level of pandemic stress in particular helped drive longer-term health hiccups, including an average weight gain of 29 pounds and upticks in both drinking and insomnia. Moreover, research shows that while older adults have remained resilient, mental health overall has taken a beating. We may not all be seeing therapists — there's a shortage of them, by the way — but experts say we are tired, distracted, anxiety-ridden and self-medicating. And unfortunately, we're not using exercise to relieve any of it.
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Yes, our better selves want to tell our more sedentary selves to just “snap out of it” (channeling a little Cher there). But it's worth cutting ourselves some slack. After all, for months on end, staying planted on the sofa, bingeing all nine seasons of The Office — the gym closed, the Zoom yoga feeling less than zen — was just following stay-at-home orders.
So now it's 15 months later, and just as no one can get your vaccination for you, no one but you can chip away at some of the obstacles standing in the way of a more fit, healthy, rested and, yes, chipper self.
That's where our three-month lineup of healthy living advice comes in. In May, we focus on tuning up your mental health and mood. We will have meditation lessons and meditative yoga with Rolf Gates, strategies for overcoming the 3 a.m. wake-up from top sleep coaches, and clinical psychologists’ best tips for unpacking (and sending packing) midlife work-from-home burnout.
In June and July, we'll turn to healthy eating and exercise, with age-appropriate advice — from nutritionists, fitness trainers and medical experts — for losing weight, boosting your energy and feeling stronger again.
There's lots of scientific evidence that says it's never too late to start getting healthy, and that making small changes really pays off. Make one — or more — with us. We've got your back as you get back on track.
Lorrie Lynch is senior executive editor for AARP.org, which she joined in 2010. She was a senior editor and columnist for USA Weekend magazine and a news and feature editor at USA Today. She is author of the journalism textbook Exploring Journalism and the Media.