For most of the continental U.S., falling temperatures and the change in seasons mean the approach of the holidays and fun fall activities such as pumpkin picking and hayrides. But unfortunately it also means the advent of cold and flu season, which can be aggravated by the additional hours of darkness and decreased outdoor activity. Here’s a few helpful tips to keep your immune system strong and stay healthy until springtime:
Cardiovascular exercise has a myriad of health benefits, physical and mental. It can be cold out there, but even 30 minutes of walking and getting fresh air will do wonders for your body and mood. Exposing your skin to daylight boosts Vitamin D levels (which keeps your bones, immune system, and mind healthy), and exposing your eyes to daylight keeps your circadian rhythms in balance. Maintaining a healthy weight will keep your whole system healthier and help you stay positive as you feel good about your body. There are also winter sports you could participate in: running (bundle up and avoid black ice), skiing, snowboarding, and ice-skating. If being outdoors is truly not your thing, then consider joining a gym and/or swimming pool to make sure that you maintain some kind of exercise regimen. Again, it’s not so much about what you do or how long you do it as the consistency of doing it regularly. Getting the heart pumping also stimulates white blood cell production which will help fight off those nasty colds and viruses that your kids bring home from school. Yoga is very good for boosting your immune system also but if you can leave the house for a walk/run/other exercise — do!
The high majority of doctors and nutritionists concur that It’s extremely important to maintain a balanced diet through the winter months. The holidays often involve a lot of communal and celebratory meals. Don’t overdo the sugary treats as sugar suppresses the immune system! Do eat plenty of vegetables, protein, and fruits high in vitamin C. Make sure to stay hydrated as well; in the winter it’s easy to forget about drinking the water that you might normally drink in warmer weather. You may want to take a vitamin D or fish oil supplement to boost your T-cells and help ward off infection; getting plenty of sunlight can also stimulate vitamin D production though often this can be in short supply in winter.
Take care of your mind
First things first: get plenty of rest — not too little and not too much. Your body might require more sleep in the wintertime due to the dark hours and colder weather, but staying in bed too long can also lead to depression. Of course, if you are sick, then sleep is the best thing you can do. A regular sleep schedule allowing you what you need (the average is 8 hours) will provide the maximum benefit. Secondly, try to manage your stress effectively. Diet and exercise will help, but the holidays often bring extra family and career stresses not found at other times of the year. Consult a therapist or mental health professional as needed — you are worth it! Stress also has been proven to suppress the immune response. Thirdly, make time for quality time with your friends and your loved ones. Maintaining social connections with people whose company you enjoy not only lightens your mood and keep the immune response up, but studies have shown that it may even help you live longer! You don’t have to be a victim of the “winter blues”, but if you think or know that you do suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) consulting a qualified healthcare professional (whether conventional or alternative) can help you survive the darker times of the year.
The Alliance For Affordable Services is committed to helping you stay healthy through the winter and, in fact, all year round! Members save up to 40% on all CVS brand eligible health-related items (such as cough and cold meds, hand sanitizer, etc) with the CVS ExtraCare card. Members also have access to Teladoc, a 24/365 national network of U.S. board-certified physicians available to answer any medical questions that you might have. There are discounts available on lab tests, MRI, CT, and/or PET imaging, and prescription and emergency assistance. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M-F, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).