Now the dark nights are closing in, temperature has dropped and the holiday season is feeling well and truly over, it’s easy to find yourself going into hibernation mode – choosing nights in on the sofa with takeaways over proactive action for keeping yourself fit and healthy. So, what can you do to make sure you stay in good health over the winter months?
Here are a few tips to make sure that this winter is a healthy, happy and successful one:
- It can be hard to fit exercise into your schedule in winter, but it is more important to keep active during this time than in any other! Walking is a great accessible, free and low-impact activity that the whole family can partake in, and which shouldn’t be written off due to cold weather. Indoor gyms and swimming pools are your friend during the winter months, often with round-the-clock opening times to fit into your routine. See if a local gym has any joining offers, and get settled in before the yearly January rush! Other winter-specific activities such as ice-skating are great fun, so much so that you may forget you’re getting active! Any exercise that you do will help keep your mental and physical health in a good place, as well as avoiding the dreaded winter weight gain.
- The diminishing hours of sunlight over the winter can be a big factor in feelings of tiredness, stress and sluggishness. Particularly for individuals who know that they are prone to suffering from depression, it is important to try keep our sleeping and waking cycles as regular as possible. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day whenever this is possible, and also make the most of the daylight when you can! If you have a lunchbreak at work, brave the cold for a walk around the block in the winter sun – you’ll feel refreshed, grateful to have caught a bit of daylight, and also be getting some much-important exercise into your routine.
- The cold weather reduces the efficiency of our immune system, for a variety of reasons. We have less exposure to naturally-occuring vitamin D from sunlight, our nasal passages are drier due to drier air – the same dry air that allows viruses to travel and spread much more easily than in the summer. Alongside these biological and chemical factors, our lifestyles change in the colder months, meaning we are more likely to be in close proximity to others – whether this be on public transport for example, or keeping office windows and doors firmly closed. All these behaviours mean that our chances of catching a cold are heightened. What can you do to decrease your chances and to stay healthy? Keeping warm is crucial – err on the side of caution and carry a hat, glove and scarf with you when the temperatures drop! Remember to drink plenty of water, and consider taking vitamin supplements – particularly D and A – alongside ensuring you’re washing your hands correctly to minimise risk of infections.
- As mentioned above, ensuring that you’re getting the right amount of vitamins becomes increasingly important over the winter. Our vitamin D levels need a boost without the sunlight, and diet can be a great and rewarding way to make sure you’re keeping healthy. Whilst it can be tempting to fill up on stodgy, carbohydrate-heavy meals – particularly over the festive season – autumn and winter is a great time to explore locally-sourced fresh produce. For example, salmon is a brilliant source of vitamin D as well as protein, alongisde mushrooms and eggs. Winter vegetables include carrots, cabbage, kale and squash; which can be served as an accompaniment, made into a soup, or used in pastries and pies! Why not use the excuse of the festive season, and the colder nights, to have friends and family round and cook them something seasonal, nutritious and full of vitamins?
- All of these above tips should help you to have a happy and healthy winter, but if you are in a group of the population deemed to be at risk of developing complications of flu, it is worth enquiring about getting a flu jab. If you are 65 or over, pregnant, or have an underlying health condition or weakened immune system, you are eligible for a flu jab on the NHS. There are different types of flu vaccines available, which your doctor will be able to advise you on depending on your condition, and it is recommended that – for the jabs to be most effective – that they should be administered in October and November. Think that this added protection may benefit you and that you fall into the categories listed above, or does a close friend or family member? Talk to your GP about getting a flu jab this winter!