Are you one of those people for whom keeping healthy in winter often feels too much of an effort? You feel tired, sluggish, lacking in motivation? You try to brighten the days with the wrong types of diet, expecting your body to cope. It needn’t be this way. With a bit of preparation and by following these simple steps to keep you healthy, winter can be a season to look forward to like any other.
- Aim to take a 10 minute walk in the fresh air every day even if it’s grey daylight to help improve mood. Take up an extra winter activity such as dancing, curling or skating rather than huddling up in a centrally heated house or office. People who exercise regularly are less prone to depression. Avoid sudden temperature changes by wrapping up warm to ensure good circulation to all body parts.
- Keep up your fluid intake. Drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily to start flushing out the urinary tract. Choose herbal teas or coffee substitutes over non herbal tea, coffee and fizzy drinks.
- ‘Eat, drink and be merry’ – hard though it is when the weather is cold and the temptation to indulge ever present, cut down on processed foods, eat more fruit, vegetables and wholefoods. Bad diet and limited exercise can affect the immune system, increasing the chances of falling foul of winter viruses. Make warming foods such as vegetable soups and stewed fruit, adding plenty of stimulating spices such as ginger and pepper. Fish oils and garlic will help blood flow. Take extra vitamin C to help your body make white blood cells which are the soldiers in the immune system’s fight against invading germs.
- If you are one of those people who can bank on getting at least four colds every winter, you might like to consider using echinacea. It can help improve the way your immune system spots and deals with the bugs that might harm you and helps support the body’s natural defences. Start taking it in October and be amazed as you sail through until March with scarcely a sniffle to your name.
- ‘Tis the season to be jolly’ but be sure to keep an eye on your alcohol consumption. Alcohol uses up the nutrients your immune system needs and has a paralyzing effect on the cells of the immune system. A few nights out in the pub may make you feel less resistant to invading viruses. If the temptation proves too much for you then take a complex containing milk thistle to assist your liver in processing the alcohol.
- Make sure you get enough rest and relaxation – at least 8 hours per night. Your immune system stokes up during deep sleep and when you are deeply relaxed so you have a health enhancing excuse for a few early nights. Valerian has been used traditionally to help relieve wakefulness. Stress reduces the effectiveness of the immune function. When you are tired or under pressure, you fall prey to bugs more easily. Unwind for at least 30 minutes before going to bed to encourage better sleep.
- Bearing in mind that viruses aren’t just airborne and can live for up to 3 days on things like escalator handrails, door handles, coffee cups, drinking glasses and plastic surfaces it makes sense to follow basic hygiene measures to avoid droplet or smear infections. Regular hand-washing, use of disposable tissues and coughing or sneezing into the crook of your arm rather than into your hands – all these measures can help in the fight against germs.
Lastly but not least, prepare to have fun, enjoy what the season has to offer, find things to make you laugh, read cheerful books, avoid gloomy friends and make the most of your healthiest winter yet!