During the winter months our bodies need more care and attention to avoid getting sick. We show you how you can winter-proof yourself against the elements.
Temperatures are plummeting, the evenings are getting darker and we’ll be putting our clocks back an hour on October 26 – yes, winter is coming.
Unfortunately, winter doesn’t just herald the arrival of Christmas, with the colder weather comes an avalanche of colds, flus and general sickness. Some of the reasons for an increase in winter sickness include because we tend to eat more comfort food and less fresh food, and as the days are shorter, we spend less time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine.
So how can we prepare ourselves for the cold months ahead? Here are 10 top tips to help you survive the sniffles this winter.
1. Feast on fish
In the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, people experience less depression and seasonal affective disorder (depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by a lack of light) compared to the UK, despite sharing the same levels of cold and darkness. Their secret? They eat large volumes of fresh fish, which contain enormous amounts of vitamin A and D. And if you’re not a fish fan, then you can always top up your vitamin intake with some cod liver oil tablets.
2. Keep your distance
One of the simplest ways to avoid catching a cold is to move away from people who are sneezing. In addition, use antibacterial sprays and wipes on household bacterial hot spots such as door handles, banisters, keyboards and toilet flush handles. Using an antibacterial hand gel when out and about will also help stop the spread of germs, as will washing your hands more regularly.
3. Vitamins, fruit and vegetables
During the winter we tend to eat less vegetables and fruit and reach for comfort foods like ready meals, takeaways and puddings. But a healthy diet is important to support the body’s immune system, so try and eat brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. If you’re craving something sweet, opt for satsumas or dried fruit. And if you’re struggling, consider taking a daily multi-vitamin, especially one that contains vitamins A, C, E, D, B6 and B12.
4. Get a massage
Health experts say that a rubdown can improve your immune system, increase your energy levels, reduce stress and boost your mood. So why not treat yourself to a weekly professional massage or talk your partner into giving you a relaxing backrub?
5. Stay hydrated
We all know that it’s important to drink plenty of fluids in the summer, but it’s just as important to stay hydrated in the winter. Being dehydrated will make you tired and snack more, so keep yourself healthy with herbal teas, hot chocolates and malted drinks.
6. Stay active
People who exercise at least five days a week reduce their chances of catching a cold by around 45 per cent, according to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. A separate study in the US found that 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day also doubled their response to the flu vaccine.
7. Get a flu jab
If you are over 65 the Government recommends that you should have a seasonal flu jab every year. If you don’t qualify for one from your GP, they are available at a low cost from pharmacies.
8. Give up smoking
Smoking drastically lowers your immune system – so if you were planning on giving up, now is a great time. You’ll quickly notice that your breathing gets easier and exercise is more comfortable.
Ask your doctor about NHS services to help you give up and call the free NHS Smokefree helpline on 0800 022 4332.
9. Get a good night’s sleep
People who sleep less than six hours a night are four times more likely to catch a cold, according to a study by the University of California. Health professionals say it’s the most important factor in winter-proofing your body because other precautions you can take such as eating healthily, taking supplements and getting the flu jab won’t be as effective if your body is too tired to make the most of them. Aim for a minimum of seven or eight hours of sleep a night so you can rest and build up your strength for the next day.
10. Keep your spirits up
Many people experience the winter blues, also known as seasonal defective disorder. This is when people feel down due to the change in seasons, particularly when the days are short and it gets dark earlier. Ways to combat this include going for a bracing winter walk, talking or visiting friends and family and taking up new classes or hobbies with a companion. And with winter markets popping up in town, you could even try ice skating.
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