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Magnus Biberston, 3, practices social distancing while enjoying the outdoors.


POLK COUNTY — By now, most people are feeling the effects of COVID-19 in one way or another.

Schools, sporting events, numerous businesses, theaters, all state parks and recreation sites, trail heads and more have been closed as the pandemic continues to spread across Oregon and the United States.

Following Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order 20-12 on March 23, on what would have been the start of spring break for high schools and colleges, everyone is ordered to stay at home unless otherwise necessary, or face possible Class C misdemeanor charges.

As Oregonians struggle to find a new normal in light of these uncertain times, one thing is for certain: Staying healthy is of the utmost importance.

Dr. Emily Vala-Haynes, an associate professor of community health at Western Oregon University, with a background in global public health statistics, had some thoughts on how to keep healthy — and not go stir crazy — while you’re ordered to stay at home as much as possible.

“The thing I want to say to preface any of the rest of this is that, above all, we just need to be kind to each other and to ourselves,” Vala-Haynes said. “At this point most of us are lucky enough not to have experienced the physical effects of the virus, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the mental/emotional effects are impacting everyone. Sleep … can definitely help with staying healthy and reducing stress. So don’t forget about that.”

While many grocery stores have been empty of things like pasta, rice and toilet paper, there are some stores that are fully stocked in areas like produce and fruit.

Vala-Haynes said preparing fresh vegetables and fruit will help with a balanced diet — which is important to maintain if you can during a high-stress period of time.

She also suggests taking the time to learn how to make a new meal, or to take the time to teach those kiddos who aren’t in school how to cook.

“Look up fun recipes online and take the time to actually make healthy meals,” Vala-Haynes said.

As for exercise, Brown’s order did not outlaw exercising outside. So get out and move, Vala-Haynes said.

“We are so lucky to live in a relatively rural area. Even in the towns, it’s easy to keep physical distance on sidewalks,” she said. “I went on a run this morning in Independence and just hopped into the bike lane when I needed to pass a couple walking their dogs.”

Since parks and playgrounds are closed, taking walks or bike rides around the block or your neighborhood is a good way to relieve some of that cabin fever.

But what about the rain?

“We all know there will be half-hour pockets of sunshine when we can go out and appreciate how beautiful it is where we live,” Vala-Haynes said.

For those who don’t want to go outside, or can’t, find a way to exercise inside. Practice yoga, of which there are hundreds of instructional videos on YouTube, and requires only yourself and a towel or yoga mat; search social media or Google for free workouts you can do, which can range from bodyweight high intensity interval workouts to strength training if you have the equipment for it.

Or make it even simpler: Do a set of pushups after each episode of your favorite show; do 10 crunches every hour. Run in place. Live in a two-story house? Run up and down those stairs for a while.

“One thing I would not recommend is picking up a new risky sport,” Vala-Haynes said. “Don’t go out to Black Rock, go off a six-foot jump, and end up in the ER with a broken arm, because that’s just putting stress on our health care system.”

At the very least, pick up one of the books you’ve been meaning to read and finish it; take up knitting; do a puzzle; play boardgames; call your grandma or grandpa; learn a new language with one of the many available online resources, like Duolingo. Tackle those chores you’ve been meaning to do.

Stay home, stay healthy.

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