As the leaves change color, temps drop and sunny days fade, many of our daily routines shift with the new season. We swap out our cold brew for a pumpkin spice latte, swimsuits for cozy sweaters and put in extra effort to ward off germs to stay healthy. To help keep your immune system running at its best, we’ve put together a list of simple things you can do to help you stay healthy. Some of them might surprise you!
1. Get your steps in
Grab your shoes and get some fresh air. A brisk walk does wonders for your energy, mood, and immune health. Moving your body with moderate intensity helps promote a healthy inflammatory response and strengthens immunity. How? When you’re breaking a sweat – your white blood cells (WBC) that combat illnesses and infections circulate more rapidly within your body.
The caveat: too much exercise without enough recovery time can have the opposite effect and has been linked to a lowered immune response. So if you’re trying to boost your immunity, skip that 90-minute HIIT class in favor of something a little more mellow – walking, bicycling or doing yoga for about 30 minutes a day should suffice.
2. Get your zZz’s and recharge
Quality sleep is a pillar to health. Snooze time is the prime time for your body to rest and recover from the day. It’s also when your immune system ramps up its disease fighting efforts. When you’re resting, your immune system doesn’t need to compete for resources with other functions of your body, like digestion or metabolism. Still need convincing? Lack of sleep has been linked to lower levels of WBC that helps fight illness and inflammation, leaving you more susceptible to getting sick. How’s that for pillow talk?
3. Be smart with how you fuel your body – eat a balanced diet
Your diet doesn’t need to be perfect, but a few healthy tweaks can go a long way when it comes to protecting your immunity.
- Ditch the processed foods and fuel your body with fresh, whole and immune-supporting foods. A healthy diet rich in plants, lean protein and fiber provides the nutrients your body needs to have an upper hand against harmful invaders.
- Drink plenty of fluids every day
- Try adding fermented foods or a daily probiotic to your meal plan. A strong immune system starts in the gut, and the good bacteria in fermented foods and probiotics keep your intestines and your immunity healthy.
- Consider adding supplements to your daily routine to help ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C, D, zinc and more to support immunity.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
This probably isn’t surprising, but keeping your weight in a healthy range can help reduce your risk for a slew of health conditions. Excess weight can affect how your body, including your immune system, functions. Though more research is needed on how obesity impacts immunity specifically, it’s believed excess weight leads to impaired function of T-cells, WBC that are part of your immune response.
5. Find your Zen
Close your eyes and just breathe! Meditating for 5 – 20 minutes a day can help clear your mind and lower stress. When times are tough, your body releases cortisol, which affects the role of your T-cells, impacting immunity. Cortisol also lowers an important antibody called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), a protein in your immune system that identifies invaders like viruses and bacteria. A cool fact about chilling out? Regular practice of meditation or mindfulness may increase your levels of IgA and help strengthen your immune response.
6. Practice good hygiene
Last but not least, wash your hands! This might be obvious (hopefully!) but regular handwashing is one of the best ways to ward off illness. Make sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds (remember: sing the happy birthday song 2x) using warm water and soap.
Gabby is a nutritionist with a master’s degree in strategic communications. She loves using her nutrition-fluency with storytelling to encourage positive change. Before Persona, she worked at a mental health clinic helping clients manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues through diet.