First of all, welcome to 2017, loyal readers! Some of us (cough, nearly all of us, especially if you live in the United States) had a rough n’ tumble 2016, and it’s time to forget all that jazz and look ahead, hopefully and with determination, to absolutely KILLING IT this year.
Problem is, it’s tough to get out there and kill it if you’re kicking off 2017 sneezing and wheezing like a used pair of bagpipes.
January brings us many things in the fitness industry. On the good side, packed-out gyms are full of eager beginners looking to make a lasting lifestyle change. On the bad side, overcrowded facilities are stuffed full of sniffling half-sick lumps of humanity spreading their germs all over the place.
It’s the perfect storm of a lot of people coming together in a naturally fluid-filled (think lots of dirt, sweat and maybe even a few tears) environment during a particularly virus-friendly time of year, and contagious illnesses do tend to abound during these early winter months.
So what can you do to boost your immune system and, as I like to say, bulletproof yourself against the common viruses that seem to take out half your office this time of year?
First and perhaps most obvious of all, commit to an almost-OCD level of hand washing. If you touch something that anyone else has touched (an elevator button, a dumbbell, a computer key, a phone), don’t you dare touch your mouth, nose or eyes until you wash those filthy hands. After I’m done working with a client, I scrub like a doctor going into the OR before I even think about handling my phone, computer, or god forbid, FOOD.
Second, and easier said than done, get regular and ample sleep. 7-9 hours is the recommended amount for active adults; you may need slightly more or less based on your individual lifestyle. Studies show that people who don’t sleep normally or adequately get sick, and people who get enough sleep have stronger immune systems overall (and are less likely to be obese, which is a story for another time).
Third, as the wise Hippocrates famously said, “let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.” What he meant is that you can actually protect your physical health simply by eating a nutritious, balanced diet (some of the top choices to include in your everyday diet include citrus fruit, broccoli, ginger, garlic, almonds, and papaya). As for the more “advanced” immunity-boosting foods, consider:
- Fermented foods (think sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, miso, and kefir) go a long way in providing healthy probiotic bacteria
- Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a compound that converts in the body to a compound similar to breast milk (and we know how good THAT stuff is!)
- Berries have super-high antioxidant capacities (bonus for wild blueberries, top notch) and powerful phytochemicals, without the sugar of comparable fruits
- Green tea (especially when made from quality matcha) has nearly 17 times the antioxidants of the aforementioned berries and 7 times more than dark chocolate, plus a nice hot cup can feel great on a sore throat and give you a little energy boost, too
And finally – what kind of trainer would ThisFitBlonde be without a summary mention of exercise as an immunity-boosting tool? Getting your heart rate up and breathing more heavily can literally help flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways, and some studies show that exercise causes certain beneficial changes to your white blood cells (the body’s disease-fighting cells). It can also relieve stress (a major factor in propensity for common colds, flus, and illnesses) and make you feel better overall, even if battling a little sniffle.
Whenever I have a new client that tells me they’re the type to “always get sick,” I have to have a little chuckle, because I know that we can start them on a positive chain of wellness responses – regular exercise leads to better sleep quality, better sleep leads to a stronger immune system, a stronger immune system leads to less fatigue and days off due to illness – the benefit list goes on, and it all starts with just a few dietary additions and strong sessions in the gym.
What are your best at-home or natural remedies for the winter sniffs and sneezes?