stay healthy winterThis is a busy time of the year. But in the hustle and bustle of work, family, and holidays, don’t forget to pay attention to your health. As we face shorter days and colder weather it’s important to maintain healthy habits and there are several, easy steps you can take to keep you and your family in tip-top condition. Here are five ways to stay healthy during cold weather:

1. Watch what you eat. During this season family get-togethers and holiday parties make it all too easy to over indulge. The Heart Foundation suggests that “[w]inter is a great time to re-think the size of your meal, especially with foods such as rice, pasta and potatoes which, while delicious, can be easy to over-serve. Choosing a healthy amount for you can help to manage your weight, and free up space on your plate for more vegetables! Try using smaller plates when dishing up and waiting 20 minutes before heading back for seconds.” 

But it’s not just about denial. Treat yourself to in-season fruits and vegetables like grapefruit, carrots, oranges and cauliflower which are fresh, abundant, and cheaper than at other times of the year. (They are delicious, too.)

 2. Get outta here. “Always check your weather app before [going outside] for the day and dress accordingly” recommends the University of Nebraska Health Center. “Make sure you have a warm coat, hat, gloves and earmuffs handy for inclement weather”. Even in frigid weather once you get moving you’ll warm up. When you’re out and about look for ways to sneak in a little more exercise by parking at the far end of the supermarket lot and walking to the entrance or by opting for the stairs instead of an elevator.

3. Sit less. If the weather gets so bad it forces you to stay inside, get active and have fun around the house. “Don't want to miss your favorite show?” the Heart Foundation asks. “Try jogging or skipping on the spot or even just stretching while you watch. Use an activity tracker to make sure you’re still getting your steps up. Set a target to achieve the same amount of steps you would complete over the warmer months.”

There are many ways to get active indoors, the Foundation advises. “Join a team or a physical activity program. There are lots of indoor activities to embrace over winter, such as yoga, bowling, dancing, soccer, and so on. The key is making your winter activity enjoyable and social. Try out your local indoor swimming pool; if you’re not a great swimmer try some simple aerobics moves in the shallow end.” 

4. Give your immune system and mental health a boost. Because of reduced sunlight hours, the short cold days of winter may be robbing you of vitamin D. Vitamin D increases your body’s resistance to certain diseases. It strengthens your bones and teeth. Plus, healthline.com reports that “[r]esearch has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and decreasing the risk of depression.” Load up on vitamin D by eating foods high in the vitamin like eggs, salmon, and fortified milk and by taking walks in the sunshine. If your doctor recommends it you may wish to take a daily vitamin D supplement.

5. Get vaccinated. While we are all getting a bit weary of advice about vaccinations, it still bears repeating. AARP Magazine relates that “what’s important is to start taking the precautions you need today to reduce your risk of getting a cold, the flu and COVID, and make it through the winter healthy and safe.” As much as we would like it to go away, COVID is still with us. The National Institute of Health predicts that “[a]s colder temperatures settle in and people spend more time gathered indoors, cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses almost certainly will rise.” The American Medical Association recommends getting vaccinated and boosted for COVID and notes that “unvaccinated adults 50–64 years old were 7.4 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19.” 

Last winter due to widespread use of masks during the pandemic, the number of influenza cases was down dramatically, but medical experts are predicting that this winter with masking all but gone the flu will be return with a vengeance. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department says, “Every year, millions of people get the flu. The good news is that the seasonal flu vaccine can lower the risk of getting the flu by about half. Getting the yearly flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu.”

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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