We’re right on the verge of the busiest time of the year – running around, taking care of many to-dos on our ever-growing lists, and the last thing we have time for is getting sick! As luck would have it, though, now is the time of year when your immune system will be put to the test. Staying healthy in the winter can be a real challenge, but there are a few tips you can follow to keep those pesky germs at bay. Here’s what you need to know in order to stay healthy in the weeks and months of cold ahead.
Take care of you: You are what you eat.
When the weather takes a plunge, it’s key that your immune system stays in tip-top shape. The food you put in your body needs to provide the components necessary for a strong immune response. We all know that we need a certain amount of protein to be our best, but when it comes to keeping your immune system happy, look no further than vitamin C.
Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, along with maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage. When it comes to your immune system, it helps with the production of white blood cells, known to fight against infection and viruses. Most already know that citrus fruit has high vitamin C content, but potatoes and tomatoes are also high in this vital vitamin.
Vitamin D is an anti-inflammatory vitamin that has immunoregulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of immune system defenses. It is most commonly achieved through exposure to sunlight, however, sunlight wanes in the winter months, with less daylight hours. Did you know that you can consume Vitamin D through foods such as fish, soy milk and egg yolks?
The adage, “You are what you eat,” stands true, especially in these upcoming winter months. Eating foods rich in nutrients our immune system needs and craves will make us healthier and happier.
Many animals hibernate in the winter. Sadly, humans do not fall into this category. Despite the want and desire to keep sedentary inside where it’s warm as opposed to less hospitable elements outside, your body needs movement and exercise to keep your immune system strong.
When the weather is poor outside, it can make exercising outside non-existent. Even driving in a car to a gym can be difficult when the weather really turns bad. But exercising at home is always an option. By bringing the gym experience to you, conveniently at your house, you’re in a controlled, safe and warm environment. It will take you less time to get a workout in, especially when time is a luxury at this time of year. You can easily follow at home workouts that are low impact through television or online programs.
No matter what exercises you decide to focus on, you should get at least 30 minutes of movement per day at least four times a week, especially cardio.
Your body needs good sleep.
Despite this being the busiest time of the year, the days get shorter, and the nights get longer. This can disorient the body, because the body depends on an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm to know when it’s time for bed. When it gets darker earlier, the brain gets tricked into thinking it’s time to go to bed, which also creates more fatigue that can derail your sleep schedule. Sleep deprivation isn’t just too little sleep, but also because of restless sleep. When you don’t stick to a common 24-hour sleep schedule, it can leave you feeling groggy and, more importantly, impact your physical and mental health. And because of the decline of available sunlight and the lack of vitamin D as a result, this can also cause decline in mental health, a phenomenon known as seasonal affective disorder characterized by depression. Poor mental health can also cause the immune system to weaken on top of not getting proper rest, so keeping track of when and how much you sleep is even more pivotal.
Winter can be challenging but it doesn’t have to mean you will automatically get sick. Knowing the steps you can take to keep your body and mind as healthy as possible can make the winter months not only manageable but enjoyable as well.