How to Stay Healthy This Winter
For many people, winter might mean several months of misery, depression and weight gain if they live in a climate that experiences severe cold weather. It can be very tempting to go into hibernation mode until the spring thaw comes. If you’re typically sick for several months out of the winter, read on for tips on how to stay healthy this winter.
Keep Up With Your Exercise
Exercise boosts energy levels and mood. It also helps you burn calories, which is very useful if you tend to gain weight around the end of year holidays in the Northern Hemisphere. If you live in a part of the country with access to winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and ice skating, do take advantage of this great opportunity and get your workout in outside.
But even if you don’t have access to winter sports, you can still stay active even when the weather’s bad. It’s as easy as popping in a DVD or finding something on YouTube. Remember that becoming inactive during winter can be one of the worst things you can do for your health.
Nobody really likes the short days and long nights of winter, but spending time outside during each winter’s day offers several key health benefits.
Get Some Fresh Air
Being cooped up indoors leaves you more prone to colds and flu, since you will be surrounded by other people coughing and sneezing (and everything they touch!)
Don’t Forget Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a hormone our body produces as a result of exposure to the sun. If you live further north, it’s important to take supplements since it can be hard to get the 30 minutes of sunshine that’s necessary for adequate D. But if you live in a warmer client, do get outside when you can!
Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Winter can cause many to struggle with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, (known as SAD) which affects millions of people around the world. It’s caused by the lack of daylight during the short winter days, especially when there is bad weather.
SAD can trigger depression, illness and weight gain. Colds and flu can make people (and their immune systems) even more depressed. Getting out in the sun is the best way to combat SAD and live life to the fullest each winter.
Unfortunately many people pack on the pounds in the winter. They crave hot “comfort foods” to warm up on a cold day. The holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas in western countries can be a diet disaster. Eating more and working out less, if at all, because of the cold weather, is a recipe for weight gain and getting out of shape. By the time spring rolls around, you’ll be dreading taking off your winter coat. Not only that, but sugar consumption tends to suppress the immune system.
Skin and Hair Issues in Winter
Winter weather is a lot colder and drier than summer weather, which means it takes its toll on your skin. Your hair might start to look dry and brittle and break easily. Your skin might become chapped, red and flaky. If you already have dry skin, winter can make it even worse. If you’re guilty of just using whatever you have in the shower, it’s time to become more intentional about self care. Your skin will love you for it!
Dressing for Safety in Winter
Last, but not least, you need to dress for safety in winter. Cold and hypothermia kill. A hat, scarf, gloves and proper footwear to match the weather conditions are all essential. Always be prepared for the possibility that your car may get stuck or experience delays on public transit, and dress accordingly.
One of the most confusing things about becoming sick with an upper respiratory illness such as a cold or the flu is that they begin in a similar manner. However, each requires a different treatment in order to limit the illness and get over it as quickly as possible.
Is It A Cold or the Flu?
Colds are caused by becoming infected with a rhinovirus. Like many viruses, it mutates. There are hundreds of strains of the common cold virus and any cold virus can be around at any time. Not only that, ew strains can form all the time, making it difficult to build up immunity to them. Viruses have no cure, but you can treat the symptoms as best you can to make you or your loved ones more comfortable if they come down with a cold. Typical symptoms of a cold include:
• Congestion (head and/or chest) • Runny nose (stuffiness from swollen sinuses) • Watery eyes • Coughing-it can be a dry cough, or one that is productive, that is, produces phlegm in order to get congestion out of your body) • Headache • Tiredness • Itchy nose, eyes and throat • Fever (more common in children) • Sore throat
The Flu is caused by becoming infected with one of the strains of the influenza virus. The flu generally comes on more quickly than a cold. The symptoms may seem to hit all at once, and will usually be more severe than when you catch a cold. The typical symptoms of flu include:
• Runny or stuffy nose • Cough • Sore throat • Headaches and/or body aches • Fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever) • Chills • Fatigue, lack of energy • Nausea, vomiting • Diarrhea (most common in children)
While the first four symptoms are common to both flu and colds, they are likely to be more intense when you have the flu. You may find it almost impossible to function. Flu symptoms are strong right from the onset, and they usually run their course in about a week. Colds usually only last a few days.
Natural Relief for Cold and Flu Symptoms
My go-to natural remedies when I’m feeling under the weather include elderberry syrup, essential oils, immune boosting tea and homemade chicken soup.
Since colds and flu are both viruses, antibiotics will have no effect. An over the counter cold remedy will help dry up the nasal congestion but try to avoid products with a lot of alcohol or caffeine in them.
Cold and Flu Prevention
The best way to prevent or reduce colds and flu is good old fashioned common sense.
- Wash your hands often and not share personal items like cutlery, towels and so on.
- Avoid contact with those who are ill.
- Stay at home when you are sick.
- If you must go out, carry a hand spray with you.
- Keep the communal areas of your house clean, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
Taking these precautions may keep you from getting sick at all or can highly minimize your chances so you can have an enjoyable winter season.