5 Healthy Habits to Support your Immunity this Winter
The winter months are synonymous with cold and flu season. We may be going into the final month of the winter, but we’re not through the woods yet – it’s important to keep your immune system healthy to fight off sickness and disease.
The good news? You can take some simple, preventative measures and healthy habits to support your immunity during this time of the year.
1. Stay active
Research shows that regular exercise decreases the risk of infection. Individuals who exercise a couple of times a week have a lower incidence of getting sick with upper respiratory tract infections, such as common colds and the flu (1). Further research by Chastin et al.,(2021) suggests that regular, moderate to vigorous physical activity is associated with reduced risk of community-acquired infectious diseases.
Exercising doesn’t have to be hard, doing at least 20 minutes of exercise (sometimes as simple as a brisk walk) can already help your immune system. So even though the cold can make it tempting to stay cosy on the sofa, try incorporating even a small amount of movement in your day.
2. Eat a balanced diet
This might not come as a surprise, but what you choose to eat and drink has an impact on your immunity. Nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc are some of the micronutrients which play a role in your immune function. Therefore, ensuring your diet is balanced and varied is incredibly important.
During winter, plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables are available to make nutritious and hearty meals. Apples, pears, clementines, parsnips, brussels sprouts, and cabbage; to name a few.
To get to your 5-a-day, keep your plate as colourful and diverse as possible. Think of delicious soups, adding legumes to stews and casserole dishes, and adding fruit to your breakfast porridge.
If you don’t enjoy cooking or feel that your busy lifestyle is preventing you from a healthy diet, a meal prep service (hint hint, like Fresh Fitness Food) could be a great fit for you!
3. Get plenty of sleep
Getting enough sleep is critical for keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Sleep and immunity are bidirectionally linked.
Sleep appears to promote inflammatory homeostasis as it influences several inflammatory mediators, such as cytokines. Insufficient or disturbed sleep can affect your body’s defence system and lead to infection and disease. When the immune system gets triggered by an inflammatory response, this can induce an increase in sleep duration but also a disruption of sleep (3).
Aim to get a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep by implementing good sleep habits like avoiding caffeine too late in the day and limiting your screen time just before bedtime.
Our CEO Caspar has also given his take on it here.
4. Try to keep stress levels low
Modern medicine has come to appreciate the closely linked relationship between mind and body. When your body is under continual amounts of stress, this can produce higher-than-normal levels of the hormone cortisol. This can hamper the body’s anti-inflammatory response and cause infections if it goes on for extended periods.
Keeping your stress levels to a minimum is not always easy, but finding ways to cope better with stress will help. This can be whatever you find relaxing, like gentle exercise, listening to music/podcasts and meditating. Staying in touch with family and friends can help manage your stress levels too.
5. Remember vitamin D
One important vitamin for our immunity is Vitamin D. It is mainly synthesised by the body following sunlight exposure. Because it can only be found in small amounts in a small number of foods, it’s recommended that everyone living in the UK should take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months, from October – March, due to low levels of sunlight (4).
We recommend supplementing vitamin D in the form of vitamin D3, which is more readily absorbed by the body compared to vitamin D2. When choosing a supplement, we would advise a supplement that provides you with a minimum of 1000 IU up to 2000 IU (between 25 mcg – 50 mcg).
Fresh Fitness Food provides personalised meal plans delivered straight to your door, ensuring not only that you have the nutrients you need to manage your stress levels, but also that you have the time usually spent shopping, cooking and washing up, to engage in your favourite stress-reducing activity. To discuss which nutrition plan is right for you, book a call with our in-house nutrition team here.
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1. Nieman, D.C. and Wentz, L.M. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science, [online] 8(3), pp.201–217.
2. Chastin, S.F. et al. (2021) ‘Effects of regular physical activity on the immune system, vaccination and risk of community-acquired infectious disease in the general population: Systematic Review and meta-analysis’, Sports Medicine, 51(8), pp. 1673–1686.
3. Besedovsky, L., Lange, T. and Haack, M. (2019). The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiological Reviews, 99(3), pp.1325–1380.
4. GOV.UK. 2021. PHE publishes new advice on vitamin D. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-publishes-new-advice-on-vitamin-d>
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