Know Your Body
The most important element of health is to listen to your body. If you are feeling sluggish, it is often because you are not getting enough physical activity to keep your energy levels up. Lethargy (in the absence of illness) is your body telling you to get up off the couch and get active.
It is important to stay active in the winter to increase blood circulation, maintain cardiovascular endurance, maintain muscle mass, and simply to keep yourself feeling your best. When you feel healthy, you look healthy, you are healthy. Simple, but has a lot of truth. Exercise increases white blood cell counts and decreases stress- our immune system’s natural enemy.
But it is also important not to go overboard. Keep to a routine that your body can handle. Trying to run a 5k out-of-the-blue and not training up to it can be strenuous, and thus more harmful on your body and immune system than helpful. But do not use this bit of information as an excuse to not exercise or we will be right back where we started, on the couch. Try starting with a 20 minute walk everyday or 10 minute body weight circuit and work up from there.
It’s easy to find yourself lost in comfort foods during the cold winter season; but, there are many ways to indulge healthy comfort foods. One of my favorites during this time of year is baked acorn squash with a little olive oil and a dash of cinnamon. This can be a filling side that is low in calories and high in vitamin C, an added benefit to fighting off colds. Other common foods that have a high percent of vitamin C are lemons, oranges, kiwi fruit, broccoli, and apples. So squeeze some lemon in your water, keep apples and oranges on hand for a snack, and broccoli as a super-food side to dinner.
Not only should you keep vitamin C a high priority in your winter-time diet, but other vitamins and minerals are equally as important such as vitamin A, B12, and Zinc. Zinc can be found naturally in high quantities in foods such as lean beef, fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, beans, and legumes. Zinc is not often given due credit but do not mistake that for its importance, make it a priority in your diet.
It is also important to have a high intake of fiber. Fiber is beneficial for your body in a multitude of ways, and a healthy diet full of grains, fruits, and vegetables is the best route to getting it. You will find high amounts of fiber in any and all beans, dark-green, leafy vegetables, raspberries, blackberries, and oat bran. In all, a healthy, nutritionally-varied diet is essential for a healthy immune system.
We all know to wash our hands frequently, but it is something that must also become routine to keep your health and the health of those around you. Wash your hands often and keep things that you touch often, such as cups and pens, to yourself to avoid spreading germs and you will notice the difference!
Get plenty of sleep. A lack of sleep has detrimental effects to the immune system, such as significantly decreased white blood cell counts, which are our bodies response to infection and foreign bodies. So start today with quitting the excuses for why you do not get sleep and instead try to find solutions on how to get it.
Water, water, water. Drink more water. The importance of this can not be emphasized enough. Especially this time of year, it is easier to become dehydrated. Cold weather often decreases the desire to drink cold water, so you may be drinking much less than you do other times of the year without really realizing it. The common recommendation is to drink eight 8 oz glasses of water every day. But I would suggest anywhere from 10 to 15+ glasses depending on the amount of activity you are doing in a day; which, is hopefully at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise each day! An easy way to do this is to always have water with you. Sitting at work, have a glass right next to you. On the go, have a water bottle in your hand or bag. Water is important for daily functioning and also helps flush toxins from your body, keeping your immune system in balance.
In all, practice and commit to a healthy lifestyle and you will reap the benefits. Keep away the sniffles and lethargy this winter with exercise, sleep, nutrition, water, and clean hands AND as always, join any of our Nutrition Workshops or schedule a session with our DECO Dietitian to learn more and practice implementation of some of these suggestions!