Nutrition, Exercise, and Mental Health During COVID-19

Dr. Vicari Erwin-Wilson, who has her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Florida, is a board-certified family physician in Tallahassee, Florida. Throughout her career, Dr. Erwin-Wilson has been encouraging patients to take care of their bodies, both physically and mentally. However, this has become even more important over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, Dr. Erwin-Wilson gives advice on how to stay physically and mentally healthy during this unprecedented time.

Photo of Dr. Erwin-Wilson“Be sure to do something you enjoy, because smiling and feeling happy has been proven to improve the immune response and overall well-being.”

One important aspect of staying healthy is through adequate nutrition. With a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition, Dr. Erwin-Wilson is passionate about eating a proper diet and encouraging others to do so. One of her favorite healthy meals to cook is salmon with broccoli and brown rice. Dr. Erwin-Wilson believes food can greatly impact a person’s health. To help boost the immune system, she recommends getting adequate protein (from things such as lean meats, eggs, fish, nuts, and beans) and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. The dark green, orange, yellow, and purple vegetables have specific chemicals called phytonutrients that pump up the immune system.  One way she suggests getting a balanced diet is by having “a good variety by eating a rainbow of colors.”

Another crucial element of physical health is exercise. Dr. Erwin-Wilson said that exercise can help stimulate and improve a person’s immune system. “Moving increases blood flow to nourish your tissues, tells your body to produce substances that help fight off infection and improve your well-being,” she stated. During this time, there are plenty of at-home workouts people can participate in. Personally, Dr. Erwin-Wilson enjoys watching YouTube workouts for exercises such as yoga, dance, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Another way to stay active is walking outdoors. Outdoor exercise also increases your vitamin D, which helps the immune system. Her biggest piece of advice regarding exercise is “Be sure to do something you enjoy, because smiling and feeling happy has been proven to improve the immune response and overall well-being.”

Lastly, Dr. Erwin-Wilson strongly believes mental health is extremely important for a person’s well-being. She said that one way to take care of one’s mental health is to “take some time every day to do something for yourself that you enjoy.” Some things Dr. Erwin-Wilson likes to do to improve her mental state include spending time with her family, reading, and listening to music. She recommends spending time with one’s friends and family (even if it is over FaceTime or Zoom) because social interaction is essential for a person’s mental health. Her biggest piece of advice is to make sure that you take care of yourself mentally during these tough times.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, physical and mental health has become more important than ever. While eating well and exercising are important, a person’s mental state is just as crucial to his/her health. Dr. Erwin-Wilson state that “Taking good care of yourself mentally goes a long way towards keeping you physically healthy, as well.” It is important to speak to your healthcare provider if you are feeling sick or are in need of mental counseling.

For more information on coping with stress during COVID-19, please visit Coping with Stress (

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