Fighting off germs is busy work for our immune systems, but we can make it easier on ourselves. Discover how small lifestyle choices can keep our immune systems ready for action—and make a big difference in our long-term health.
According to Lisa Osborne, an assistant microbiology and immunology professor, there are simple things we can do to keep our immune systems strong. They come down to listening to what your mother told you growing up: “Activity, healthy diet, sunlight when you can get it. We know these are critical factors for mental health as well as physical health and supporting immune function,” she says. Osborne also strongly encourages vaccination.
1. Eat well
Healthy immunity starts on your plate. Focus on whole grains, fresh produce in an array of colors, and healthy proteins such as nuts and seeds to help your body produce infection-fighting white blood cells.
2. Get moving
Regular, moderate physical activity bolsters the immune system and its ability to fight off illnesses, including cold and flu viruses. According to the World Health Organization, adults should aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week, with two sessions of strength training for best overall health.
3. Get some sleep
A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, set a consistent schedule, and avoid screens, alcohol, caffeine, and large meals before bed. If worry is keeping you awake, keep a notebook beside your bed to clear your head.
4. Tackle stress
Too much stress can disturb your immune response and lower your protection against infectious illnesses. To help lighten the load try meditation, yoga, or any form of movement.
5. Prioritize your social life
Perceived social isolation has been linked to impaired immunity and a whole host of other health issues. To combat loneliness, create and maintain meaningful social connections, stay in touch with loved ones, say yes to activities you enjoy, volunteer, or participate in book clubs or community groups.
6. Consider supplements
Check with your health care practitioner before taking a new supplement.
|vitamin C||may help prevent and treat systemic and respiratory infections and help shorten colds|
|vitamin D||may help reduce the incidence of cold and flu, help control infections, and reduce inflammation|
|magnesium||plays a key role in keeping the immune system strong|
|zinc||helps the immune system fight infections and heal wounds|
|quercetin||helps stimulate the immune system and possesses antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties|
|elderberries||may reduce inflammation, lessen stress, and ease symptoms or reduce duration of cold and flu symptoms|
|oil of oregano||has antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties|