With the winter months well and truly here, I thought I’d write about how through regular training/exercise and proper nutrition can really boost your immunity and help fend off any nasty bugs or illness’s going around. This time of the year is notoriously known for more people going down sick and taking time off work, one of the main reasons being due to the colder and wetter weather. People tend to stay indoors more often during the winter and understandably so, but this means we’ll come in contact with more dangerous bacteria, for example people coughing and sneezing around you. Also something else to consider is during winter months we are hidden from natural sunlight, meaning we will be more than likely be deficient in vitamin D, which can lead to a whole host of health problems such a skeletal deformities, achiness/soreness, gut problems, and poor mood, in worst cases leading to depression. Through better nutrition and maybe supplementation our vitamin D levels can be at a more “healthy” level.
Of course we can take care and be more vigilant in our own hygiene and other simple habits to help protect ourselves as much as possible. Simple things like washing our hands regularly, putting our hands over our mouths/nose when we cough/sneeze, maintaining stress levels, sleeping properly (7 hours minimum) and then of course exercise and nutrition which I will go into a bit more detail. Put this all together and fingers crossed, your immune system will be boosted and more protected from illnesses. Let’s hope you can not only go all winter without being ill, but all year round too, if you stick to this advice.
It is well known that through regular exercise, whether that’s going to the gym or playing sports, can be the pillar to good health. It will improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, control body weight and protect against various diseases. Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job more efficiently.
You don’t have to exercise every day to benefit from this. As long as your body is training or exercising at least 20 minutes, a few times a week, your immune system will spark new cells that will help keep foreign invaders away. This could be a simple dog walk, a jog round the park, or a weight session in the gym. As long as you’re breaking a sweat, it’s exercise! Each time you exercise you’re immune system will build up and therefore you’ll be at less risk of getting an infection, like the common cold for example.
Now onto the most important element of this subject. When it comes to nutrition, think of your body as a car. If you put the wrong fuel into a car, it’s not going to last long; it will come up against problems and will breakdown. It’s the exact same thing with the human body. If we fuel our body up with the wrong foods, our body will not perform to what it’s optimally capable of, we’ll get ill, we’ll feel less energetic, stressed, unhappier, the list goes on. When I say “bad” foods, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what I mean. But here’s a list of a few food categories you should avoid:
- Processed food (takeaways), do we really know where they’re getting there sources of food from?
- Foods high in sodium, sugar and trans fats (chocolate, crisps, sweets, cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks etc.)
- Foods with additives, e-numbers and hidden chemicals/sugar in (Ready meals, “low fat” products, smoothies/fruit juices, cereals, coffee shop products etc.)
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to putting junk into our bodies. Some of the stuff above we can have in slight moderation, for example a couple of pints of beer at the weekend or a glass of red wine with your meal out is fine and actually have some health benefits to (red wine). The devil is in the dosage with a lot of the foods above. One takeaway a month won’t kill you, a cheeky bit of chocolate at the weekend again won’t hurt you, again dark chocolate has health benefits to it (80%+) it’s just when you see all of the above mixed together frequently, you’re potentially at a very high risk of a lot of health problems, which I shouldn’t have to explain.
Now onto some positive information. The human body was designed to eat anything that:
- Flies (poultry like chicken, turkey, duck, eggs)
- Swims (fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, seafood, etc.)
- Runs (farm animals like cows, lambs, pigs)
- Grows out of the ground or on trees (fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds)
And one other key component of our nutrition we tend to forget about is water for hydration of the body and vital organs. All of the above should be staple in your understanding of basic nutrition. Not only will all these foods provide you with the right amount of protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins to fuel you from day to day activities, but also help fight against infections. These are packed full of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, water soluble vitamins B, C and folic acid. But also provides other key minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc and selenium, which help the function of vital organs in the body. Eat a variety of foods from the above categories, incorporate as much “colour” in your diet as possible to gain the maximum amount of nutritional benefit to help run that very precious machine of yours, your body! You will see the difference and hopefully not get ill either.
After reading this I hope you now have a bit more knowledge on what to do when it comes to avoiding illnesses. So if you’re one of those people who always goes down with a cold this time of the year, follow my advice, put it all together hygiene, exercise, nutrition and proper sleep/rest and I guarantee you you’ll feel better in some shape or form, and hopefully you won’t get ill either!