4 Ways to Keep Your Immune System Super Strong

They’re (mostly) things you love doing anyway

4 Ways to Keep Your Immune System Super Strong

Seasonal get-togethers mean exchanges of handshakes, hugs, kisses and, of course, germs. How can you enjoy the holidays without getting a cold or flu? Add these immune-boosting tips to your holiday to-do list, and stay healthy while you enjoy the season and all of the people—even if they do come with germs.

1. Indulge … in healthy foods

When you’re filling your plate with goodies at holiday gatherings, try to include some immune-promoting foods—or at least make room for some of these foods during the day. Try to have about half a cup of yogurt (preferably a flavor-free yogurt). Make sure to have plenty of vegetables (the more varied the colors, the better). If possible, try to eat steamed or baked veggies, and ensure the vegetables are not overcooked. And don’t forget to include whole grains and protein, whether it’s lean meat, beans or other legumes.

Once your plate (or your tummy) is full of tasty yet immune-boosting bounty, there may be much less room left for sugary, calorie-crammed sweets. Consider fresh fruit for dessert instead.

2. Exercise for immunity

During the holiday season, try to squeeze a little time in each day for some exercise. Moderate exercise has been shown to reduce upper respiratory illness. Going to the gym may not always be practical or possible, so instead consider 30 minutes of brisk walking or 20 minutes of running (see “How to De-Stress the Holidays” in this issue of alive@work for more on exercise’s benefits).

3. Sleep to avoid getting sick

Who doesn’t love to sleep? It’s long been known that sleep deprivation can lead to a diminished immune function. But if you were looking forward to sleeping in during the holidays, you’ll want to know that this may not be helpful for your immunity.

Research shows that a disruption of the circadian rhythm may have a more negative effect on the immune system than we previously thought. So, it’s best to go to sleep and get up at your usual time. If that party was just too good to leave—and you end up getting to bed later than usual—rather than sleeping in the following morning, wake up at your usual time and try to get to sleep earlier the following night.

4. Stay warm and cozy

The cold temperature outside is definitely a great reason to gather everyone inside. Research has demonstrated that low temperatures combined with low humidity increase the transmission of influenza viruses. When you’re cozying up inside, help decrease the transmission of lurking flu bugs by keeping your home’s thermostat at a moderate heat, while also ensuring relative humidity levels are maintained.

By making these changes in the lead-up to the holidays, you can enjoy good cheer without worrying about seasonal germs. And let’s be honest: that’s probably the best gift you can get.