Keep Your Family Happy and Healthy This Winter by Avoiding These Common Cold-Weather Mistakes
By Tyler Woodward
When the winter is upon us, most of us enjoy the holidays, the snow and cozy moments in front of the fireplace with family and friends. However, this picture-perfect vision can be easily disturbed by the common illnesses that face us during this season. No one wants to spend the winter months at the doctor’s office, rather than enjoying this special time.
- Exercising During the Winter Months
- Common Winter Health Ailments
- Four Winter Health Tips to Avoid Making Common Mistakes
All you need to do to keep yourself and your family healthy during this season is to follow these winter health tips. Learn about common problems that could affect our immune systems and how to prevent them to maintain good health and yuletide cheer throughout the winter months.
Exercising During the Winter Months:
With bathing suit season is still half a year away, it is tempting to skip our exercise routines and stay in instead. Cold weather and the end of daylight-savings time not only makes it more difficult to exercise outside, but prevents any desire to leave the warm confines of our homes to venture out to the gym.
However, exercising in the winter time is especially important to promote healthy immune systems and help our bodies to fight common bacterial and viral infections. The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists the following benefits of exercise to improve immunity to common winter ailments:
- Exercise flushes out bacteria from lungs and airways, which may prevent the cold of flu.
- Exercise changes antibodies and white blood cells that are used to fight diseases.
- A higher body temperature during exercise prevents bacteria from growing and spreading.
- Exercise lowers stress levels which, in turn, may lower our chances of getting sick.
- Supercharge your workout by doing an indoors warm-up routine before heading out in to the colder temperatures.
- Slowly build up your tolerance to working out in the cold by adding five minutes to your workout daily.
- Wear layers so you can be warm as you start working out outside, and then remove one layer at a time as you increase your body temperature.
- Find exercises to do at home if you simply cannot get yourself to the gym.\
Read More: How Stress Impacts the Immune System
Common Winter Health Ailments:
Although it is possible to get sick any time of the year, there are certain illnesses that are more prevalent in the wintertime. These include:
- Common cold
- Influenza (Flu)
- Strep throat
- Pneumonia and bronchitis
- Seasonal allergies
Read More: The Ultimate Guide To Immune: Immune Support
Four Winter Health Tips to Avoid Making Common Mistakes:
Drinking too much at the office holiday party or going over your credit limit when shopping for gifts are not the only mistakes you are likely to make this season. Here are four common winter mistakes that are easily preventable:
1. Don’t Put too Much Emphasis on the Flu Shot
While most medical professionals recommend the flu shot to ward off influenza, it is not a miracle cure for all winter ailments. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that last year’s flu vaccine was only 40% effective at preventing influenza A and B.
Although the decision to get the influenza vaccine or not is a conversation for you and your doctor, there are ways you can reduce your chances of coming down with a winter illness, such as:
- Washing your hands: The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety claims that hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent infections.
- Avoid touching your face: Germs can easily enter your body through your eyes and mouth, so avoid touching these parts of your body with your hands.
- Avoid touching high traffic areas with your fingers: If you need to reach for a door knob or press an elevator button, use the sleeve of your sweater or shirt, or try to use the palm of your hand instead of your fingers to prevent the spread of germs.
2. Don’t Avoid Going Outdoors
If cold or rainy weather is not your thing, it may be tempting to stay bundled up inside your home or office. This is typical for many people, but dangerous for our health. We need Vitamin D from the sun’s rays to maintain healthy minds and bodies.
Vitamin D is vital for:
- Strong bones
- Prevention of cancer cell growth
- Reduction of high blood pressure
- A positive mood and good brain function
- A healthy immune system
It can be difficult to get the minimum of 10-15 minutes of natural light required to maintain good levels of vitamin D3, which is why it’s important to take other measures. Purchasing a vitamin D lamp or artificial light box can be beneficial. Alternatively, taking vitamin D3 supplements or eating vitamin D-3 rich foods (such as eggs and mushrooms) is vital to staying healthy.
If you do manage to find natural sunlight during the wintertime, make sure to lather on the sunscreen! It’s a common myth that you can get a sunburn only during the summer, as the sun’s rays can be harmful all year round. In fact, The World Health Organization emphasizes that high altitudes and snow can double your UV exposure, so it’s vital to wear sunscreen and sunglasses when spending time outside.
3. Avoid Eating too Much Comfort Food
If your winter diet consists of comfort foods, you are not alone! Laura Cipullo, RD, author of The Women’s Health Body Clock Diet, explains that our bodies are biologically coded to change our eating habits during times of colder weather and less daylight. It’s not uncommon to crave more energy-dense, high-calorie food, and more of it during the winter. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that humans ate more fat during the winter, which is a behavior common to many animals that fatten up to survive harsher climates.
Simply staying mindful of what we are eating is the first step to curbing unhealthy eating patterns during the winter. While you should try your favorite holiday foods during get togethers, plan ahead to purchase or make healthy staples to get you through the winter months.
Choose natural, local and nutrient-rich foods to promote a healthy immune system and ward of illnesses during this time. Fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and nuts should be included in your meals during the winter.
4. Avoid Sleeping too Much
December and January are full of holidays, which allow many of us time off work and the opportunity to wind down and relax. While it may be tempting to catch up on your sleep after a busy year, don’t get too comfortable in your bed just yet.
While getting the recommended eight hours of sleep is necessary, oversleeping may be just as detrimental to our health as under-sleeping. Biological Psychiatry found that sleeping too much can cause inflammation in our bodies, which may lead to increased chances of health problems, such as heart disease and depression.
Be mindful about common winter mistakes that can cause you to be a Grinch this holiday season. Avoid being sick and cranky by utilizing these winter health tips and staying healthy and happy well into spring!
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