Mo McNulty, PhD Student, Northwestern
It’s not always easy to stay healthy when winter arrives – dropping temperatures and increasing cold and flu viruses can make it hard to feel your best. However, taking care of yourself is not too much of a challenge with a few tweaks to your habits and lifestyle:
Make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. It can be harder to eat healthy when there’s less fresh produce available, but getting the right vitamins and minerals can help you feel good all winter long:
- Vitamin D: this is an important one – it helps your body absorb calcium and it helps prevent several diseases, including cancer. However, the main source of vitamin D is from sunlight, which is in short supply in the winter! If you find yourself staying indoors much more often, consider taking a supplement or eating more foods high in vitamin D, such as fatty fish.
- Iron: a deficiency in this mineral can lead to decreased energy levels, which might be lower anyway in the colder, darker months. Get it from meat, poultry, fish, some beans, and spinach.
- Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Zinc: these are important for a healthy immune system. Find vitamin C in orange juice and red pepper; vitamin E in nuts, spinach, and broccoli; and zinc in oysters, beef, and fortified breakfast cereal.
Keep activity levels up. I know, the last thing you want to do when there’s snow on the ground is go outside, but it’s more important than ever in the winter to keep exercising! Regular exercise can boost your mood, improve your immune system, and helps keep you at a healthy weight – especially if you like to indulge in holiday treats! Play in the snow with kids, try a winter sport like ice skating or skiing, or make plans with a friend to go on a long walk. Just make sure to dress warmly and cover your hands and head. If you really can’t bring yourself to head outside, stop by a gym on your way home from work or swap out couch time for an at-home workout. Several websites allow you to stream workout videos or learn various exercises, including Hulu Plus, workoutz.com, and fitsugar.com.
Protect yourself from colds and the flu. Boost your immune system by making sure you get enough sleep and drink enough fluids. Eating a nutritious diet and washing your hands regularly helps, too. If you do end up coming down with the cold, the Mayo Clinic recommends drinking a lot of fluids, gargling with salt water or using saline nasal sprays, making sure the air in your home is humid, relieving symptoms with over-the-counter medications, and getting a nice serving of chicken noodle soup!
Cover Photo by Unsplash via Pexels: Creative Commons