By Theresa Woodard, internal medicine practitioner at Harbor of Health
When it comes to maintaining healthy habits at the end of the year, you might think the cards are stacked against you – and not just the pile of holiday greetings you need to get in the mail.
At precisely the time when high-calorie food is everywhere, the weather in Memphis is too cold for outdoor exercise and you’re too busy with shopping and parties to make it to the gym. Along with that, the lower temperatures, less sunlight and erratic rain, sleet, ice and snow of winter can contribute to health problems related to decreased or suppressed immune systems.
While those factors do make it hard to stay healthy and fit over the holidays, they certainly don’t make it impossible. Follow these tips to help boost your immune system and support health and wellness this winter.
Wash your hands
This is especially important when you are constantly exposed to public places full of people, such as school, work, clinics, stores, gyms, churches, etc. Washing your hands is free, fast and easy – and the most effective way to maintain cleanliness and a healthy immune system.
Boost your nutrition with vitamins D and B12
Vitamin D levels can drop in the winter due to decreased exposure to sunshine. Vitamin D helps boost your immune system, regulate mood, regulate insulin levels and support diabetes management and maintain bone strength and lung function. Vitamin B12, meanwhile, is essential for glucose metabolism, heart health and proper brain function. Your doctor can prescribe supplements to keep your levels of vitamins D and B12 in a healthy range.
Go to sleep
Not getting enough sleep can cripple your immune system, and there is no truth to the myth that you can “catch up on lost sleep.” Strive to regularly get at least eight hours of sleep per night; kids, teens and the sick need even more to maintain healthy immunity. Proper sleep hygiene, like turning off all electronics a few hours before bed, can help you have a restful night.
Add color to your fruit and veggie palette
Part of the power behind the vibrant colors of various fruits and vegetables is their phytonutrients (like carotenoids and flavanoids), vitamins (such as A, C, D and E), and minerals (such as zinc and magnesium). Remember, there is no substitute for the benefits your body gets from a healthy diet.
Even if you indulge in holiday treats now and then, try to balance it out by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables – the more colorful your selection, the better!
Routine exercise for at least 30 minutes five times a week helps regulate blood sugar, cortisol levels and other body mechanisms such as metabolism. These benefits build a stronger immune system and a healthier you. If the weather doesn’t allow you to get outside to exercise, hit the gym or consider indoor family fun around Memphis: rock climbing walls, roller-skating rinks, walking laps at the mall, trampoline parks, etc. all offer a chance to burn calories and have fun with family and friends without having to brave the elements.
To learn more about improving your sleep, getting on a good exercise program or increasing your fruit, vegetable, mineral and vitamin intake, make time this holiday season to come see me at Harbor of Health, 718 Harbor Bend Road. Walk-ins are welcome, and you can make an appointment on zocdoc.com or by calling 901-515-4200.
Be well this holiday season!