We know, we know — it’s barely just Fall. But if there’s one thing you should be starting early (hint: not your Christmas playlist), it’s prepping your immune system before temperatures dip and flu season rears up again. Here are five healthy habits you can incorporate over the season so they’re second-nature once winter sets in.
- Get accustomed to moderate exercise. The keyword here is “moderate.” Whether you’re accustomed to going all-in — or whether you haven’t hit the gym in weeks — moderation can be key. Exercise in general helps keep your immune system healthy, but strenuous exercise can actually lead to an immediate dip in immune function, leaving you more susceptible to getting sick.
- Get some sun. That bleak winter light might not feel as pleasant as a summer afternoon, but it’s still a great way to get some fresh air and ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D. Make it a habit to bundle up and (weather permitting) take a brisk walk for half an hour at least once per day. Not only will you get some exercise, you’ll also help ward off seasonal affective disorder, plus keep your immune system strong.
- Eat colorfully. Winter food can be notoriously…beige. But consuming a colorful array of fruits, veggies, or legumes with each meal is an excellent way to ensure you’re getting plenty of vitamins and vital nutrients (which often account for a food’s different colors). Sweet potatoes and hardy greens are excellent foods that hold up to roasting.
- Clean up your sleep schedule. Consistent full nights of sleep are vital to staying healthy. Sleep has been shown to strengthen both your body’s innate and adaptive immunity — your body’s baseline immune response, as well as its ability to fight off different pathogens as it encounters them. Sleep is also important to maintaining a healthy stress response, as well as boosting cognitive functions such as memory formation and recall.
- Wear your Intake Band. Your nose is your immune system’s first defense. When you breathe through your nose, your paranasal sinuses produce nitric oxide — a powerful antimicrobial that helps neutralize pathogens before they enter your body. If you’re heading to the gym, grocery store, or any place you might be caught mouth breathing, pop on your Intake Band over your mask to help your body keep up its defenses.