7 Ways to Stay Healthy When the Seasons Change
Just because the weather is changing doesn’t mean you have to let go of your routines.
When the seasons change—especially when the temperature turns from warm to cool or from cool to cold—it can be difficult to keep up your regular healthy habits. After all, exercising outdoors in a brisk wind or snowy/icy conditions is less than appealing, not to mention fresh produce isn't always as readily available. And to top it all off, you’re more likely to get knocked out by the flu in the fall and winter, too (it doesn’t help that your kid seems to be coming home every other week with something they caught at school). To stay fit, maintain a good diet, and help avoid getting sick, steal these secrets from Michelle Reed, D.O., a family medicine physician, owner/medical director of MS Family Medicine Health Care, P.C., in Long Island, New York, and mother of twin 14-year-old boys.
Enforce bedtime for yourself. Dr. Reed recommends trying to get seven to eight hours of zzzs per night. Research shows that sleep deprivation can make it easier to get sick. One study that looked at blood samples from eleven pairs of identical twins found that the twin who got less sleep had had certain parts of their immune system depressed compared with their sibling. Another study found an association between not getting enough quality sleep and having trouble fending off viruses like the common cold. In fact, study participants who slept less than seven hours a night were almost three times more likely than those who slept eight or more hours to catch a cold after exposure to the virus. The key to getting enough shut-eye is going to bed earlier and developing a wind-down routine before bed. Shut down everything electronic—yes, that means, your TV, laptop, tablet, and phone—and dim the lights in the 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Spend that time reading, meditating, taking a bath, or doing something else calming.
Take steps to stress less. Speaking of meditating, you don’t just have to limit it to bedtime. For some people, taking some time to meditate or take a microbreak at some point during the day can be beneficial. Another idea: Ask for help. "A lot of times we don't want people to know what we're going through. We're trying to be so private. We think we have to do everything, but that can lead to stress and depression," Dr. Reed says. "Knowing when to ask for help is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of power." This might mean hiring a babysitter, asking your partner or kids to pitch in more with household chores, or seeing if friends or family members can do you a favor in a pinch.
Make sure you’re not just pushing fruits and veggies on your kids. "We give our kids an eating plan, but so many times, we neglect to give ourselves that same eating plan. We say, 'I'll eat after I get them off to school' and then they come home from school and you still haven't eaten," Dr. Reed says. "Even if you can't find fresh fruits or vegetables, you can still get frozen." Sneak veggies into a morning egg omelet, add fruits and veggies to a lunchtime salad, and include a side of veggies with dinner each night.
Add something extra. Dr. Reed includes getting 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, an immune-supporting antioxidant, in her everyday routine. Make vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits (different varieties are in season during different parts of the year), frozen berries, or mango part of your inter-seasonal diet. Or add a supplement like Emergen-C into your water, tea, or smoothie for some vitamin C and other key antioxidants and vitamins.
Keep up the exercise. First things first: Schedule exercise the same way you'd schedule a haircut or a pedicure. "We busy moms go by our calendar. It's about prioritizing yourself," Dr. Reed says, who squeezes in a quick workout year-round by getting up a half hour earlier than her kids. If you want to break a sweat outside and the temperature is low, just make sure you bundle up. "Do you tell your child you can't go to school because it's too cold? Then there's no reason you can't exercise just because it's cold," Dr. Reed says. If you just can't face the freezing weather, incorporate bouts of fitness throughout the day. Do crunches while you watch TV, do 10 to 15 squats after each trip to the bathroom, or do lunges while waiting for water to boil in the kitchen.
Do your best to circumvent sickness. Use a multi-pronged approach. Dress appropriately for the weather (hello, layers!), wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap (or using hand sanitizer when on the go), and teach your kids to do the same. Likewise, model other good behavior like keeping your hands away from your face, covering your mouth with a tissue when your cough or sneeze, and trying to keep your distance from others who are ill.
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