By Amy Schlinger
It’s common to stay inside more during the winter months—whether you’re trying to avoid viruses or the icy outdoor temperatures. But avoiding sick people won’t necessarily keep you healthy. When you’re spending more time indoors, self care is even more important to avoid cabin fever, and the negative effects of all that sitting around.
Focus on boosting your immune system this cold and flu season. If you can’t afford regular doctor visits, visit our partner for Walmart Wellness Day on January 11, 2020. In select stores you can receive free cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, low-cost immunizations, and more.
We asked some of the top experts in the medical and nutrition space to share their tips for staying healthy during the winter months.
1. Stay active.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that adults try to move more and sit less throughout the day. They recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity exercise. Strength training is recommended as well.
If you’re less likely to leave the house from December through March, “find at-home exercise videos that you like,” suggests Nadya Swedan, MD, physical medicine specialist in New York City. “You can find yoga or Pilates or bodyweight strength videos as short as 15 to 20 minutes that can help maintain and improve posture, increase strength, and help prevent back pain, too.” In other words, you don’t have to make a trip to the gym to get your exercise in.
2. Organize your home to reflect your healthy goals.
Set yourself up for success by rearranging your kitchen to keep you on track with your wellness resolutions—whether you’re trying to drink more water, or eat a little healthier this year. “If you need to do a better job hydrating, keep you water bottle out on the counter, and any drinks in your fridge close to the front,” suggests Leslie Bonci, RD, a nutrition consultant for the Kansas City Chiefs, Carnegie Mellon University athletics, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
“If temptation is your trigger, do a clean sweep and remove any higher calorie, overly tempting foods from the shelves, fridge, or freezer. If it’s out of site, it will stay out of your mouth.” Bonci also suggests buying pre-cut fruit and veggies to encourage healthy eating. “Keep them in a bowl on the counter, or in the front of the fridge so it’s the first thing you see when you open it.”
3. Try essential oils.
You want your home to smell nice, but candles and room sprays may cause more harm than good. “They can put fine particulate matter into the air that can be harmful to both your nasal passages and lungs, causing congestion, stuffiness, and even asthma attacks,” explains Tanya Elliott, MD, clinical instructor at NYU School of Medicine in New York City.
She suggests using essential oils instead, especially ones like eucalyptus and peppermint, which she says can be “good pick-me-ups to help jumpstart your day.” Their refreshing scents can have other wellness benefits, like relieving anxiety or boosting mood.
4. Make time for meal prep.
The craziness of the holidays is over (thank goodness!). Take advantage of your extra free time on weekends for some meal prep, that can last the whole week. Plan out your menu from Monday through Friday and get ingredients ready when you’re not at work. Cook proteins and sides in bulk so there’s always something healthy waiting in the fridge to eat. You can even prep breakfasts the evening prior suggests Bonci. Make things like overnight oats or a smoothie, so it’s ready to grab and go when you’re on the way out the door.
5. Bundle up and get outside.
Sure, snuggling up under a blanket on the couch is cozy and warm. But it’s important to spend time out of doors—even when it’s chilly. “Get fresh air and sunlight daily for at least 30 minutes,” suggests Dr. Swedan. “Fresh air and sunlight boost mood and immunity.” One way to do it? Throw on some layers and go for a stroll. “Walking is a good way to accomplish this and give you some daily cardio,” says Swedan. If you dress for the cold, you might even enjoy the brisk weather.
6. Supplement your immune system.
During cold and flu season, certain vitamins and minerals can help keep your from getting sick. “Quercitin has been shown to help fight allergy symptoms and boost the immune system,” explains Dr. Elliott. “It helps to block histamine, which is the chemical that gets released by allergy cells during an allergy attack. Histamine is responsible for redness, itching, swelling, and congestion.”
Fuel up on kale, tomato, broccoli, raw onion, capers, raw asparagus, and blueberries, all of which are good sources of quercitin—and other healthy nutrients. It does also come in supplement form, but as long as you eat lots of fruits and veggies, you should be able to get through your dietary intake, explains Dr. Elliott.
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