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Health, fitness and wellness experts discussed the importance of going out safely to promote physical and mental well-being during the pandemic at a webinar on Saturday.
Governments across the country are easing restrictions on COVID-19 following indications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Professor Omar K Danner, a professor at Morehouse School of Medicine, said that individuals should continue to follow safety guidelines and exercise discretion in deciding what parameters should be introduced and whether or not they wear a mask.
“I want to quickly remember why we’re here, and that’s because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.
The virtual seminar was part of the Paul Men’s Caine Black Men’s Health Series, a series of monthly events about the state of the pandemic and its impact on black and brown communities.
The Department of Parks and Recreation offers outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the summer, including lakefront activities, the local farmers market, and outdoor performances. Parks and Recreation Director Lawrence Hemingway said he hopes to encourage people to spend time away from home safely, both for their physical and mental health.
Hemingway said people need to follow their own comfort levels, while using common sense and choosing the parameters where the necessary protocols are. He said it is important for people to keep their circles small until the pandemic ends, while taking time out.
“Apply the knowledge we have and have learned and how we have operated over the last year,” Hemingway said. “This is one of those individual decisions we have to make.”
Wellness strategy Jacquelyn Baston highlighted the impact of exercise on physical health. The virus affects communities differently, which she said could be explained in part by pre-existing health levels and conditions. Physical activity, Baston said, can reduce stress, improve sleep and boost a person’s immune system, which can help fight COVID-19.
He encouraged residents to make use of the resources of the Parks and Recreation Department.
Danner, of Morehouse Medical School, said individuals need to be smart to get back to the gym, an environment where total safety is not guaranteed. If people don’t feel comfortable, Baston said there are many ways to exercise outdoors and from home.
“The best gift on this planet is to have a bright sun on you, to have the ability to breathe the plant life of oxygen trees to take it all in, get out of the confines of your home,” Baston said. “I don’t think you should ever limit yourself to your abilities outside.”
Even with the vaccination of residents, Danne said the virus will continue to spread and infect people. Prevention remains the most effective strategy in terms of curbing the pandemic, he said, which includes wearing masks and social distancing, regardless of CDC guidelines. He said people should optimize their own health to prevent the disease from progressing to a serious disease if they are infected, which he said vaccines help.
To strengthen the immune system, he recommends people monitor their health, consume vitamin D and other supplements, focus on exercise, and sleep six to eight hours each night. He said zinc supplements reduce viral replication.
But aside from his own health, Danner said people need to think about their surrounding communities.
“We have to take precautions,” Danner said. “We are responsible to our brothers, our sisters, our fellow citizens of this great country and this great world. When you basically take risks … you put other people at risk because of your own risk behaviors. “
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