Home > News > Expert guidance on physical health during COVID-19 outbreak

Expert guidance on physical health during COVID-19 outbreak

With the government advising citizens to socially distance and self-isolate while the COVID-19 virus remains a threat, it can be challenging to maintain good physical health.

Crystal Palace’s Head of Sports Medicine, Dr Zafar Iqbal, has outlined his advice for staying safe and healthy in these testing circumstances.


This is general advice and not recommended for those who haven’t undertaken any physical activity before or have health issues. These individuals need to make sure they have medical clearance to undertake activity and should seek medical advice prior to any new changes to your lifestyle.


It is important that anyone told to self-isolate separates themselves from other people in their home.

Public Health England recommends staying in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, away from other people and to use a separate bathroom.

If a separate bathroom is not available, then maybe draw up a bathroom rota, with the isolated person using the facilities last, before thoroughly cleaning them.

If you share a kitchen with others, PHE recommends avoiding using it while others are present and meals should be consumed in your own room.


It is likely that your physical activity will decrease during self-isolation, so it is even more important to be careful with what you eat to ensure you are not consuming more food than your body requires. This will end up being stored in the body as fat and make it more difficult to lose.


Have three-four small, regular meals a day.

Breakfast: Do not miss this meal otherwise the body will go into storage mode.

Example meals include:

  • Wholemeal toast with poached/scrambled/boiled egg
  • Low fat yoghurt with fruit
  • Cereal with fibre and low sugar

Lunch (between 12-2pm) and dinner (between 6-7pm): focus on low carbohydrate and increased protein 

Example meals include: 

  • Grilled meats – Lamb/beef (once or twice a week)
  • Fish grilled – three times a week
  • Grilled chicken – two times a week
  • Salad
  • Sweet potato
  • Sweetcorn
  • Grilled vegetables


Have a snack between breakfast and lunch (11 am) and between lunch and dinner (4 pm).

This can include:

  • Handful of nuts
  • Small amount of fruit
  • Low fat yoghurt

Food and drinks rules 

  • Don’t miss breakfast
  • Avoid fizzy or sugary drinks – stick to low calorie flavoured water or water
  • Have minimal carbohydrate intake in your dinner
  • Do not snack after dinner
  • Stick to wholemeal pasta and bread
  • Minimise consumption of white bread, white potato and white pasta
  • Minimise consumption of crisps and chocolate


Ideally adults need to be undertaking 30 minutes of regular physical activity of moderate intensity per day, while children should aim for an hour per day.

For you to benefit, the physical activity should be of sufficient intensity to result in the following:

  • Make you short of breath
  • Feel slightly warm
  • Increase your heart rate

For some this may be as simple as jogging up and down on the spot or going up and down stairs and for others they may require more intensive activity.

If possible, try to go for a walk outdoors for 15-20 minutes and avoid close contact with others.

If you have to stay indoors then you can undertake physical activity by:

  • Following one of the many physical activity sessions available online
  • Perform some of the following exercises for 15 minutes in the morning and again in the evening:

Start by doing each activity for 20 seconds and then resting for 40 seconds. Then move on to the next activity and repeat the different exercises for a total of 15-20 minutes. Once you become more used to it then increase the activity by five seconds and decrease the rest period by five seconds so the total time of each exercise and rest is always one minute.

Once you have reached 40 seconds of exercise and 20 seconds of rest then you can look at increasing the total duration of activity:

  • Star jumps
  • Squats / sitting up and down from a chair
  • Running on the spot
  • Press up (can do on the knees if you cannot do a full press up)
  • Core plank hold
  • Stomach crunches
  • Mountain climbers
  • High knees running
  • Shadow boxing while running on the spot

Only do those activities that you are comfortable with and at your own pace.  Its meant to be enjoyable and not painful.

Of course, humans are social animals and not having interaction with others can have an effect on one’s mental wellbeing.

Find out more about how to keep yourself in a positive mental condition by clicking here.

15 February 2024

How football kick-started Jess’ mental health recovery

Read More

31 July 2023

Train for the Marathon March at the Palace Academy

Read More

17 September 2021

Make changes to fight climate change and support your club

Read More