Can you believe today we are officially entering the first day of Winter? It’s time to think more about keeping you and your family healthy over the inevitable cold snap. The fall in temperatures often brings viruses such as cold and flu, whilst the worsening weather and shorter daylight can lead to people retreating indoors, reducing their amounts of exercise and healthy food consumption. In addition, stress levels and mental health conditions can often get more pronounced during the winter.
It is important to keep up your exercise as much as possible over the winter. Regular exercise helps to control weight, manage stress levels, offset Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and even boost your immune system. Make an effort to get into a routine of getting out of the house and exercising. Try something new like ice skating, or long winter walks, or start to do more exercises at home. Any movement is good for you so even parking your car a bit further away from work or choosing to take the stairs over the lift is a good start and will benefit you in the long run.
The colder weather can often see people reaching for comfort food to give them short bursts of energy and to briefly make them feel better. It is best to avoid these as much as you can, and that you try as hard as possible to maintain a healthy diet during these colder months. Make sure you include a minimum of five portions of fruit and veg a day. Vitamin C-rich fruits, such as clementines and satsumas, will not only help your immune system fight off bugs and viruses but will also help to quell any sugar cravings you may have.
A good idea is to have a hearty breakfast to help get you through the day. Not only do foods such as porridge keep you going for a long time, but they also ensure that you have a good intake of fibre and milk. Dairy products are a good source of protein, vitamins A and B12 and Calcium, which helps boost the immune system. For later in the day, why not try some seasonal winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and swede alongside food rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and seeds. Drinking lots of fluids are also important for keeping the body functioning properly. If you do fall ill, remember that resting and making sure you are well hydrated are the best ways to help you recover faster.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for your all-around wellbeing, particularly in winter. The longer nights mean that your body will naturally want to sleep for long as it tries to adjust to the shorter daylight hours. Getting into a regular sleep pattern with enough hours will help your body fight off illnesses as well as aiding your mental health, as tiredness is one of the major contributors to stress.
Keep on top of your prescriptions
With cold and flu viruses more active over winter, it is important that you stay on top of your current prescriptions. Bad weather or illness can prevent you from getting out of the house and picking up your repeat prescriptions or worsen your long-term condition. Do also ensure that you have enough prescription medication to last over the festive holidays, where pharmacies and GPs will often close on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and over New Year’s. Apps such as Echo can help remind you when to reorder your medication, meaning you don’t need to take extra time out of your day to go and pick it up.
Take steps to protect yourself
Even if you are currently feeling healthy, it could be well worth taking daily vitamin supplements. Alongside a healthy diet, taking supplements of vitamins C and D can be very beneficial for your general health. Vitamin C and zinc will help your body battle cold and flu, while vitamin D helps to supplement the lack of sunlight experienced in winter. Stock up also with cold remedies, painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen. If you do fall ill, even if it is only a cough, you should go to your GP or pharmacist to ensure that it does not get worse.
Stress can become more of an issue over the colder months and is often attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Stress is shown to make people tired and worn down, leaving them more vulnerable to bugs and viruses that are more prevalent during winter. There are numerous ways to deal with stress and beat the winter blues. Remember to talk to someone, be it, family or friends, about your anxieties or the causes of your stress, ensure you take some time out of your day to relax through meditation or activities such as reading a book, and get enough sleep.
Keeping warm this winter is very important – particularly if you are very young or aged 65 or over. Ensure that you keep your home heated to at least 18C overnight. Layer your clothing and wear appropriate outerwear (waterproof coats and so on) when going outside. Remember that wearing multiple thinner layers will keep you warmer than one big one.