When it comes to keeping up a good level of personal health in the winter, many are convinced that this is the hardest time to do so. The winter is cold, right? And with that comes all the health problems that are associated with catching a chill on one of those wet, frosty, or snowy days that we have to contend with on a daily basis during these months of the year. The risks seem to abound – if you’re not catching a cold from the frigid temperatures, you are straining your back toiling with snow shovels or slipping on black ice and doing yourself an injury. For sure, compared to summer, winter is a time associated with all sorts of health risks, but did you know the season brings with it all sorts of health benefits too?
Thermoregulation and Your Immune System
Staying healthy in wintertime is not just about avoiding the hazards, it is also a matter of making the most of what the season can offer. Colder temperatures typically trigger an immunity boost, which is related to the thermoregulation your body undergoes in order to cope with those temperatures. Sometimes, this thermoregulation manifests itself through a succession of winter diseases as your body reconfigures the immune system to deal with the cold weather. Since we typically spend a good deal of our lives indoors, and because winter is rarely a gradual shift to colder temperatures (instead usually announcing itself violently with the first seriously cold day), it is usually the case that the transition can be pretty uneven, even catching us off guard as we go for that first run through the snow or make our commute on that first really cold day of the year.
Make the Most of Winter
The guiding principle behind having a successful healthy winter is exposure to the new conditions. We have all heard of the health benefits of low temperature therapy, such as ice baths and even swimming in cold water. While this is not usually recommended as the way to stay healthy in winter, it does demonstrate that the body can reap serious benefits from temperatures at the lower end of the scale. If you like to keep fit and healthy, for example, you are hardly going to give up exercise just because it is cold outside. In fact, a vigorous run through the brisk cold can be massively beneficial. Staying healthy in wintertime is all about making the right choices.
Of course, the challenges remain. And if you don’t properly wrap up on cold days or protect yourself against the viruses and bugs that can be floating around at this time, then the winter could deal your body a serious shock. There is a definite method to staying healthy in the colder months.
Tips for Winter Health
Staying healthy in winter is all about meeting the specific challenges and exploiting the particular benefits that the season brings. A healthy winter presupposes a different diet and a different way of exercising; it can have an effect on sleep, and it can even affect the hygiene rules we follow. Here follows then our top tips to having a super healthy winter – no matter how cold it is.
If all goes well, the winter is the time of year where your immune system will undergo a strength boost as part of the thermoregulation your body experiences in reaction to the cold. Accordingly, winter diets are all about giving the immune system the best chance it can to fight off various winter diseases. In practice, this means a diet including whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, legumes, herbs and, of course, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Especially important in the winter months is to ensure your vitamin intake is sufficient, so prioritize a diet rich in Vitamin C. And to combat the fewer sunlight hours – or the generally gloomy weather – vitamin D is incredibly important.
As mentioned above, the benefits of the exercise in cold weather are numerous. For one thing, it aids the process of thermoregulation – your body more efficiently produces body heat to combat the cold in states of heightened activity. This is something you will very quickly realize if you go for a run in the cold, as you will soon notice that the activity simply keeps you warm. Just remember to wrap up before and after the session. Winter exercise can be incredibly refreshing and can help you acclimatize quicker to the cold.
One of the most well-known dangers of the wintertime is the toll that cold weather can take on the health of your skin, often serving to dry it out and make it more irritated. This certainly counts as one of the challenges of winter, and your skin care regime should undoubtedly change at this time. Moisturizing is of course essential, but also remember to increase your intake of water as this will in turn help keep your skin hydrated. There are also several skin care products specifically designed for winter, so you may wish to invest in one of those.
Getting enough sleep is essential to build up an effective immune system – at any time of year. In the winter, with the extra strength your system needs, it becomes even more essential. And winter can also affect how you sleep. Decreased daylight is certainly an issue so you may want to consider going to bed and getting up earlier in order to maximize your exposure to daylight. Naturally, getting the correct indoor temperature is important too. And if you are heating up your home in order to combat inclement temperatures outside, you could end up making things too hot. This can in turn make it difficult to sleep, although it is certainly preferable to getting a chill through the night from insufficient heating.
Smoking in Winter
The health hazards of smoking are well-known and require no elaboration here. However, it should be pointed out that your susceptibility to respiratory infections increases during the winter and the negative effects of smoking on your immune system could have harsher consequences. The winter months are an ideal time to consider breaking the habit.
There are many more besides, but adhering to these tips makes for a great start to preparing yourself for a healthy winter.