Over the winter months, people can feel slow, sluggish or sick. The Christmas season tends to be chock-a-block with social activities, meals and nights out; routine goes out the window and our health often suffers as a result. After Christmas, healthy eating and exercise continue to be neglected in the face of cold weather and short, dark days.
Just one of the consequences of a lack of exercise, sleep, sunshine and proper nutrition is a weakened immune system, which makes us more susceptible to illness and injury, with colds, flu and pneumonia common around this time of year.
Having said all this, it is possible to stay healthy and happy over the winter months.
Here’s how to protect your health this winter:
1.Be aware of germs
While colds and flu are common, avoid spreading germs and minimise the risk of falling ill by:
- Washing your hands with soap and water after you cough or sneeze and before preparing food
- Using anti-bacterial hand gel if you feel you need to
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Throwing tissues in the bin after you use them
2. Move your body
Continuing to exercise over winter is key to good health. Not only will it keep you physically healthy, boosting your immunity and helping keep off excess holiday weight, but it can help your mental health as well.
Try to get into a routine of getting out and doing some exercise, whether it is walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator or going for a daily walk. Make time to visit the gym or try a quick at-home workout. Take a look at our tips for exercising over the winter months. Already feeling unwell and unsure about exercising? Discover our guide to exercising with a cold.
3. Stay hydrated
It’s easy to forget about hydration when the weather is cold. However, staying hydrated is essential in making sure your body functions well: it will keep your skin healthy, flush out toxins and fight off winter bugs.
Constant indoor heating, wind and cold temperatures can all make our skin dry and sensitive. Plenty of water will help to keep it hydrated and healthy.
4. Eat nutritious foods
While we tend to crave heavy, carb- and sugar-rich comfort foods during winter, eating a diet packed with fruits, vegetables, fibre and protein is key to staying healthy over winter.
Fibre will help boost your immune system function, decrease inflammation and aid heart-health; protein will keep your energy levels stable throughout the day, fight off cravings and keep you healthy; vegetables and fruits provide the essential vitamins and antioxidants your body needs to fight infection.
Try and include as many winter fruits and vegetables in your diet as possible. Seasonal options include grapefruit, kiwifruit, mandarins, oranges, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, squash and carrots.
5. Supplement with vitamins
Vitamin C will help your body battle cold and flu symptoms. While it’s found in foods such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peppers and leafy greens, it may be helpful to supplement your diet during winter.
It’s also important to take vitamin D over the winter months. As there’s less sun and the days are shorter, we don’t get as much of the vitamin we need.
6. Prioritise sleep
During the winter, it’s natural for your body to crave more sleep due to the rhythm of the hours of daylight. Honour this and use the longer evenings to wind down and try to go to bed as early as possible to give your body enough rest.
7. Relax when possible
While a healthy diet, exercise and sleep can all help your mental health during the winter, dedicating time to relaxing is also important.
Meditation or yoga can be helpful in keeping you calm, focused and present while activities such as visiting a sauna or steam room can also help. Saunas help relax tense muscles, detoxify your body and your skin and alleviate stress.