Omicron: Keeping New Year's resolutions key to staying healthy during latest surge, doctor says

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- You may have good intentions when making resolutions, yet experts say they rarely last more than a month. But with the omicron variant spreading like wildfire, a local doctor is encouraging everyone not to quit.

That's because some of those healthy habits could actually boost your immunity. During the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owner Jonathan VanBusKirk says he worried a lot.

"The pressures that come from just the economic hits that we've had, because of the lockdown," said Van Bus Kirk.

The Tarzana resident runs a pool cleaning company so he's always on the go.

"I had kind of gotten away from focusing on eating right, just picking things up wherever I am. Kind of slacked off from my workout routine " he said.

An American Psychological Association survey found that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 42 percent of people reported gaining an average of 29 pounds. And experts say that's a change that comes with a higher vulnerability to serious coronavirus illness.

"The health and diet and exercise really helps us with boosting our immune system through general health," said Dr. Kimberly Petrick, a family medicine specialist with Kaiser Permanente, Santa Monica.

Petrick says that wearing face masks and vaccines is key to protection, but obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes increase your risk of being hospitalized.

"We know that all of those chronic diseases are major influences on the severity of COVID," she said.

With omicron spreading, she's helping patients like VanBusKirk stick to healthy New Year's resolutions. The trick is to start small and build up.

"Take five to 10 minutes every hour to get up, stretch, walk and then give yourself a break at some point in the day to take another walk," Petrick explained.

"I have a few weights and a yoga mat at home. So, if I can only work out for 15 minutes, then that's good enough. At least, like, I have a victory," said Van Bus Kirk.

"Try to go for more whole foods and less processed foods, so more fruits, and vegetables," added Petrick. "And if you're able to, try to pre-prep your meals ahead of time. Drink more water. Water can actually decrease that hunger response that you have and that craving for unhealthy foods."

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Another tip? Dr. Petrick says to eat slowly. And don't worry about all the things you didn't do right in the last two years.

Van Bus Kirk says that the best piece of advice he's gotten is "be kind to yourself."

"Embrace it, have fun with it, and include other people," Van Bus Kirk added. "You're more accountable. You can help others, and they can help you."
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