Ward off the cold this winter season with these quick tips for boosting your immunity.
The average adult suffers 2 to 5 colds annually. We’ve all been there: the itchy throat, the congestion, the fatigue. And if you’re unlucky enough to catch a flu virus? Oh boy. Luckily, there are simple things you can do to help prevent falling prey to germs this winter season.
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1. Scrub Your Hands
One of the best ways to prevent a cold is washing your hands. Use warm water and regular soap then rub vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Keep dirty hands away from your face, which can introduce bacteria and viruses into the body through the nose, eyes, and mouth. Hand sanitizers and wipes help, but proper hand washing is more effective at killing the germs that make you sick.
2. Don’t Skimp on Sleep
The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults sleep between 7 and 8 hours every night to stay healthy and help reduce stress, which taxes the body and can lead to increases susceptibility to colds. Plus, during deep sleep our bodies go into to repair mode, fixing damaged tissue, detoxifying, and fighting unwelcome intruders like germs. Shortchange yourself of a good night’s sleep and you weaken your body’s ability to heal itself.
3. Expose Yourself to Sunlight
Exposure to sunlight helps regulate your circadian rhythms, which helps you fall asleep at night—which helps you stay healthy. Exposing uncovered parts of the body to sunshine between 11 am and 3 pm for 5 to 30 minutes several times a week creates enough Vitamin D for most people. Conversely, sleep in a dark room so your body will be triggered to secrete melatonin, the sleep hormone.
4. Do Some Heart Openers
Heart-opening poses feel wonderful, but they do a lot more than simply open your chest. They also stimulate blood flow to the thymus, an organ nestled behind the breastbone that is instrumental in the growth of T-cells, the immune system’s frontline defense. Avoid getting colds and flu in the first place by weaving heart-opening poses, such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Matsyasana (Fish Pose), and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), into your yoga practice. Practice all three asanas daily for prevention, twice daily if you feel a bug coming on.
5. Eat Mushrooms
Mushrooms supercharge your immune system by increasing the number of disease-fighting white blood cells in your bloodstream. Maximizing your intake of mushrooms is easy: Just add them to your next pot of vegetable soup. For an extra immunity boost, look for dried medicinal mushrooms, such as chaga and reishi. Medicinal mushrooms also come in supplement form, and their pro-immunity punch equals that of fresh ones.
Find more immunity-boosting foods here.
Stress is the immune system’s worst enemy. Whether you’re dealing with a brief bout of craziness at work, or a longer-lasting stressor like divorce, your body’s ability to fight germs is compromised by physical and mental tension. Meditation can help. Research shows that even 10 minutes of daily meditation reduces the physical symptoms of stress, which boosts immunity.
7. Keep Moving
Cold temperatures put a damper on exercise routines, but keeping yourself active and moving will really pay off. Recent research found that the risk of catching a cold was three times as high for women who did only low-intensity exercise, like stretching, as for women who combined strength training and moderate cardiovascular exercise, such as walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike. One theory is that increasing your heart rate speeds up the circulation of white blood cells, making it more likely they will seek and destroy germs early on. To prime your immune system, get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.