Tips to Protect Your Health When You're at High Risk for Getting Sick
By Guest Blogger Mia Morales
With summer in the midst of transitioning into fall, winter is just around the corner. Now is the time of year when your immune system will be put to the test and the common cold will run amok. Staying healthy during the colder parts of the year can be a real challenge, but there are a few ways you can stack the deck in your favor. Here’s what you need to know in order to stay healthy as the seasons change.
Prioritize the Immune System
The entire point of eating food is acquiring the vitamins and nutrients that your body needs in order to operate and to maintain itself. However, protein and carbs often dominate the conversation, and it’s sugar and fat that play the roles of the villains. During the latter half of the year, when your immune system is the most necessary, your diet needs to provide the components necessary for a strong immune response. Protein is one of the many nutrients that can help you in this regard, but arguably more important is vitamin C.
Vitamin C is the vitamin most strongly associated with the strength of the immune system, along with other necessary benefits to your body such as maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage. Vitamin C is important to your immune system since it helps with the production of white blood cells, known to fight against infection and viruses. Citrus fruit is well known for having high vitamin C content, but potatoes and tomatoes are also high in this vital vitamin.
Vitamin D, on the other hand, is best gotten through exposure to sunlight, and sunlight tends to be much sparser and less bright as winter approaches. You can also consume Vitamin D through foods such as fish, soy milk, and egg yolks. Vitamin D also plays a major role for your immune health. It has both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of immune system defenses. Vitamin D is known to enhance the function of immune cells, including T-cells and macrophages, that protect your body against pathogens.
If you aren’t getting your daily dose of important vitamins, dietary supplements can help you fill in the gaps. Greens powder, for example, can help boost your immune system with a variety of ingredients that you might otherwise not even consider eating in a convenient form that can fit neatly into any diet.
You would be forgiven for thinking that humans hibernated during the winter. Although this isn’t the case, colder, less hospitable weather tends to keep people indoors and sedentary. This, in tandem with multiple holiday feasts, causes many people to pack on pounds and lose muscle mass. Likewise, a lack of activity can weaken your immune system, so it’s important for you to find ways to get regular exercise even in the dead of winter.
For starters, consider the efficacy of a home gym. By bringing the gym experience to you, you can eliminate the commute to a proper gym without sacrificing the quality of the machine assisted workouts that it provides. A more cost effective solution is simply buying more low tech, but more affordable, workout gear such as simple weights. If you don’t have any equipment, don’t stress. Using your own weight while exercising will still benefit you. Examples of exercises that use your own weight are planks, pushups, or squats. You can easily follow at home workouts that are low impact through youtube or blog posts. While these workouts perhaps aren’t the most effective, it’s better than nothing and it’s easily attainable.
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. This doesn’t have to be extreme and push you to your limit. Simply walking around your neighborhood while the weather is still manageable is a great way to get fresh air while staying active. Once it’s too cold to leave the house, try doing laps around your kitchen and living room or climbing the stairs.
Stay On a Sleep Schedule
As winter approaches, days get shorter and nights get longer. This can disorient the body, because the body depends on an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm in order to know when it’s time for bed. Darker evenings can trick the brain, however, and that can result in an uptick in fatigue that can derail your sleep schedule if you let it. Sleep deprivation can occur not only as the result of too little sleep, but also because of restless sleep. When you don’t stick to a 24 hour sleep schedule, it can cause a more turbulent sleep experience that can leave you feeling groggy and, more importantly, impact your physical and mental health. In addition to this, the lack of vitamin D from sunlight can cause a 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 has historically been a challenging time for humans, and that remains the case in the modern era. While the risk of starving or freezing to death isn’t ever present in the colder months, your health can still suffer. These tips will help you be at your best all year round.
Mia is a devout fitness instructor, mother and writer. She loves sharing her knowledge through blogging, teaching and writing.