The dreaded cold and flu season is back, and in full swing. Protecting your immune system is more important than ever. Staying healthy this winter goes beyond the typical vitamins, flu shot and drinking lots of water. Exercise, sleep and a healthy diet also play a major role in staying healthy during the wintery months.
But, let’s face it, winter is the time of year when we feel the most unmotivated. The days are shorter and the weather is just outright cold. The last thing on most of our minds is heading to the gym after a long workday. And let’s not forget the holidays, which consist of carb-loaded dinners and social gatherings. That being said, here are five tips to staying healthy this winter:
Let food be your medicine
It’s important to have enough protein in your diet to enable the body to respond to infection. Particularly iron, zinc, vitamin C and amino acids can bolster your immunity. Winter is the perfect time of year to cook healthy food. Load up on legumes, such as kidney, pinto and black beans. They are packed full of fiber and protein, and are a tasty addition to winter soups and stews. Winter squash is great too—butternut, acorn and spaghetti—are all high in both vitamin A and vitamin C.
Wash your hands
It may sound silly, but the number one way to avoid the spread of germs is by washing your hands. Wash your hands every few hours, especially after using the toilet and before meals. A recent study suggests that your work desk has more germs than a toilet (gross). I would suggest washing your hands after touching someone else’s phone or keyboard at work. Keeping antibacterial at your desk is probably a good idea too.
As I mentioned above, it’s very hard to get motivated when it’s cold and dark out. But your body has to work twice as hard to get warm in the winter, which means you can burn more calories by exercising outdoors. If it’s too cold, grab a buddy and head to the gym. Spending an hour a day in the gym or doing laps at an indoor pool is a great way to stay fit all winter long.
The average person should drink at least eight glasses of water each day. If you exercise regularly, you should add two additional cups. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs and carries nutrients to your cells. The moisture will also help make mucous membranes, including those in your ears, throat and sinuses, more resistant to bacteria. If cold water is unappealing during the colder months, try drinking herbal tea or hot water with lemon. It will keep you hydrated and help to soothe passage ways.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep can result in a weakening of your immune system. Don’t let yourself get run down this winter, because those who aren’t well rested are more susceptible to getting sick. Try to get at minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. But, anything more than eight and half hours can have adverse health effects on your body.
During the winter months, you are the most vulnerable to the 200 varieties of the virus that can cause cold and flu. The most effective defense against the flu is vaccination. And if you’re considered at risk (for example over 65, pregnant or have a chronic illness), the government will pay for your flu shot.
When it comes to fighting cold and flu this winter, vaccination is the most effective option. However, it’s only part of the package. Exercise, getting plenty of sleep and a healthy diet, among other things, also play majors role in staying healthy during the winter months.
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Jessica Clifford is a freelance writer and food connoisseur. Jessica loves experimenting in the kitchen and crafting new, healthy recipes. She believes a health diet and exercise can do more for the body than non-prescription drugs.