While many people will be happily saying good-bye to a long, hot summer and welcoming the new season, just as many of us will be dreading the cooler weather arriving. Winter is often given a bad rap as it brings with it the cold & flu season and those cold, dark mornings. However, with a little effort there is no reason for our health to suffer during the colder months! There are a number of things we can do to help keep ourselves and our family just as healthy, happy and active during winter as we are during summer.
1. Boost your diet
Eating foods that are high in vitamin C will help keep your immune system strong, so include fruit and vegies such as lemons, kiwifruit, capsicum and broccoli in your weekly shop. If you’re struggling to get the recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegies each day, try juicing them. Nutritionists recommends making juices that consist of two-thirds vegetables and one-third fruit. A blend of carrot, beetroot, spinach and lemon is a stress-busting combination that will boost your immune system. Ensure your diet also includes plenty of lean meats, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, and use lots of herbs and spices.
2. Keep moving:
While it’s a little harder to find the motivation to exercise when it is cold outside, remember that keeping active during winter is essential to support our health and wellbeing. Moving your exercise indoors during winter will help to keep you warm as well as fit and healthy. Be sure to spend time warming up before you start your exercise as it can take a little longer for your joints to loosen up in the cold weather.
3. Eating well
As winter sets in it can be tempting to start eating more of those warm comfort foods that are often high in fat, salt and sugar. Instead, find comfort in foods such as warming and nourishing soups and stews full of flavour and healthy vegetables. Be sure your diet includes winter fruit and vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals such as sweet potato, green leafy vegetables, beetroot, kiwi fruit, bananas, garlic and ginger. Ditching the exercise as well as the salads during winter can often lead to weight gain. While it may only be a small weight gain, it begins to add up as you get more and more winters under your belt! Although it’s tempting to hide behind those bulky winter clothes, by sticking to your healthy diet and exercise routine all year round, you’ll be much healthier in the long run.
4. Proper Sleep
Lack of sleep can have a serious effect on your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching colds. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as listening to soft music or soaking in a warm bath. Avoid watching TV or using your computer just before bedtime and turn the lights down low an hour before you turn in for the night, as it will boost the release of melatonin in the brain. Also try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
5. Skin health
The cold weather can affect our skin and contribute to conditions such as dry, itchy skin, chill blains and eczema. This may be due to the reduced humidity, drinking less water than you would during summer or possibly due to reduced circulation which may decrease the flow of blood and nutrients to the skin. Using moisturisers daily may help to keep the skin moist and supple whilst supplements containing vitamin E or garlic help assist blood circulation. If any of your family suffers psoriasis or eczema, try taking fish oils. These provide omega-3 which can help manage these itchy skin conditions. And don’t forget the sunscreen, it is important to remember we can still get sunburn when the weather is cold!
6. Keep cold virus away
Although we can do a lot to support our health and immunity during winter it is not always possible to avoid catching a cold or flu. The viruses that cause colds are spread by sneezing, coughing and hand contact. Wash or sanitise your hands regularly and avoid close contact with someone who has a cold. Keep household surfaces clean as well as kids’ toys when someone in the family has a cold. If you are ill, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, including water, hot tea and soup. Avoid alcohol and caffeine and get plenty of sleep. Supplements such as vitamin C, zinc and echinacea may help relieve the symptoms and reduce the duration of a cold.
During winter our hands and feet can often feel cold. Our hands and feet are at the extremities of our bodies which means they are the furthest from the heart which is pumping blood around our body to help keep us warm. Keep moving with gentle exercise to help improve circulation to the extremities of the body and don’t forget your socks and gloves! If you can’t seem to keep your hands warm (and it’s not bothering you excessively) take solace in the old saying “Cold hands, warm heart”!
8. Stay hydrated
Don’t forget to keep drinking water! As the weather cools down and our thirst decreases it is easy to forget to drink enough water. You still need to aim for about two litres/day of water during winter as it is essential for our body to function. If you struggle with plain water (like we do sometimes) try herbal tea. There are so many flavours available now that you’re sure to find some you enjoy.