Five winter health tips to keep you healthy and happy

Five winter health tips to keep you healthy and happy

Although NIWA reports that many places around NZ had the warmest May in decades, anyone working outside or walking or cycling to work will tell you the weather is turning greyer, wetter, and windier. Winter is clearly on its way.

Anyone who has suffered from winter colds and flu knows that winter is a time to look after your health. After two years of working from home and no new viruses from offshore, we may have been lulled into a false sense of health security. This year, many of you will have noticed that as well as Covid circling, there are some nasty cough, cold and flu bugs around.

Although there are no long-term effects of getting a regular cold or flu (that we could find on Dr Google!), getting a winter virus can really knock you off your feet and slow you down. You feel sluggish because cold viruses can affect our brains and our bodies, as well as affecting us physically. A study in 2012 found that cold viruses interfere with our neurotransmitters; our reaction times are slowed, it's hard for our brain to code new information, and our memory speed is reduced.

To avoid feeling rubbish, look after your health this winter.

1. Get outside

One of the best things we can do for our health is get outside, ideally into nature. You'll get the vitamin D you need, strengthen your immune system, and pack in the endorphins. Getting outside is particularly good for our stress and anxiety as it's proven to reduce cortisol levels (a stress indicator), slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure. You don't need to go far; walking around your neighbourhood park or waterfront will do the trick.

2. Eat lots of fruit and veg

We get told this one ALL the time, but that's because it's true! In winter, it's especially crucial to boost your immune system by getting as many nutrients as possible from what we eat. Seasonal fruits are all rich in vitamin C and are especially good for protecting our bodies against colds and flu; think kiwifruit, oranges and mandarins. It's good to lightly steam or sauté your vegetables in winter to give your digestive system a break from raw foods. Seasonal winter vegetables include parsnips, carrots, kumara, pumpkin, garlic, and cabbage – all especially good in soups, stews or roasted.

3. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated can boost your immune system and give your body the support to fight off infection. It also helps keep our body temperature constant and normal, which means we are more likely to feel warmer. While in summer we might notice that we're sweating and losing fluid, we are less likely to notice in winter, making it easier to become dehydrated without our noticing. Carry a refillable water bottle with you, as you do in summer, and refill as you need, and make water your drink of choice.

4. Stay active

Cold weather and less daylight can make it hard to be motivated to exercise. But exercise has immunity-boosting benefits and is essential for our overall health. People who exercise 30 to 45 minutes a day experience a 40% to 50% reduction in the number of days they get sick. One of the good outcomes of covid lockdowns has been the abundance of online exercise classes available, so if the weather is too crap to get outside, warmup up with an online class inside.

5.Stay connected

When it's cold outside it’s easy to snuggle under the blankets and binge on Netflix, Neon, or your streaming platform of choice, but another thing we learnt from lockdown is the importance of connection. Social connectedness is essential for our mental health, giving us better mental, physical and spiritual resilience. If you're going to stay in and watch the telly, invite your mates over to join you!

Prevention is better than the cure. Keeping on top of your health will mean that you're likely to bounce back more quickly even if you catch that cold. To really feel like you’re winning, do all 5 in one hit and repeat regularly - meet your friends outside and do something active, then follow it up with a nutritious meal with a side of water – sorted!

This article is meant to provide general information only. It's not professional medical advice or a substitute for that advice.
Photo from Pexels
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