Staying Healthy and Active in Winter
Winter is upon us, the days are cooler and shorter and it is harder to find the motivation to eat well, drink enough water and get enough physical activity. I’m sure we have all felt like we want to curl up with a block of chocolate and a nice glass of red during the colder months, but it is probably more important to take care of ourselves more now as winter is flu season and we are also at risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as the winter blues.
Staying healthy and active over winter can be as simple as living the foundations of a healthy lifestyle while focusing on boosting your immune system and keeping happy.
I want you to imagine that your immune system is a force field around you, my tips are designed to help you strengthen that field.
As a coach, my goal is to get you thinking about how you can use these tips in your own life, Start thinking about how they apply to you and how you can make them work, and what benefits you will get out of it, because this is how we stick to something and when we stick to doing something on a regular basis over a period of time, like winter, this is when you are likely to get the best results. I want you all to become your own winter wellness gurus, and that means to be your own expert when it comes to staying healthy and active this winter.
Make the most of our winter weather and enjoy the great outdoors
(My favourite tip)
Take advantage of our good winter weather and where we live. We have plenty of days where the sun is shining and the sky is blue, use these times to get outdoors, enjoy the fresh air and get a good dose of Vitamin D. We live on a beautiful part of the WA coast line… take advantage of it! From the Kwinana Beach, to Point Peron, around to Safety Bay and down to Long Point, there are plenty of bike paths, sandy beaches and walking tracks for you to explore this beautiful area that we call home.
Research shows that being outdoors increases our activity levels – it is hard not to be active if you go outside and even if you are not into the traditional types of exercise like running or bike riding, research tells us that even light walks have immense health benefits.
It gives us exposure to the sun which is needed for Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system and also improves our quality of sleep.
Maybe, most importantly, there are massive benefits for our mental well being. Spending time outdoors has been linked to a reduction in stress levels, an increase in serotonin which are those feel good neurotransmitters that improve our moods, it helps to improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression, increase our energy levels, restore our mental energy and it can help reduce the effects of the winter blues.
And we improve these benefits by getting outdoors and being active on a regular basis.
Wear appropriate clothing to stay warm. Rug up if you need to, sunny days can still be quite fresh.
Make it convenient – leave some shoes and a jacket in the car and if you get the opportunity to use them – do it. Impromptu walks at sunset on the way home are a great way to destress.
Grab a friend and do it together, to have a chat and catch up.
Use the time to be on your own, to listen to your favourite music or some podcasts, or as an opportunity to think and work through what is on your mind.
Whatever it is that you enjoy and don’t get enough time to do, pair it up with getting outdoors and being active and you will double the benefits and also increase your chances of doing it on a regular basis if you are able to find more than one reason for you to do it.
Plants Plants Plants
If you can’t get outdoors on a regular basis, bring the outdoors in. House plants have many benefits including cleaning and filtering the air we breathe, help to reduce anxiety, release mood boosting compounds, they help to reduce stress and can also boost immunity as well as living us a sense of purpose as we have to care for them. Not to mention plants are in right now.
Be Active Indoors
It’s not always convenient to get outdoors to be active, especially in winter. But you can still stay active while indoors, if that suits you better.
Yoga and Pilates are both indoor activities that have benefits that reach beyond getting active, they are great for reducing stress, improving mood and flexibility which can be really beneficial during the cold winter months where if you are like me, you feel perpetually stiff and cold. We do have some great studios in Rockingham where you can attend a class, but it is absolutely possible to do it at home as well, You tube is a great resource and even doing 5 minutes of bed yoga, yes that is yoga in bed, before you get up in the morning can be a positive contribution to your day.
There are also plenty of gyms around the area and winter is a great time to try some out. Many gyms offer free 2 week trials so take advantage of them and if you find a gym you love and want to sign up with, that is a double bonus.
Join a team, play a sport, start a challenge or set some short term goals for the winter months. All perfect ideas to keep you active, happy and engaged.
Drink your water like it is wine
Hydration is important to keep out bodies functioning optimally, especially for our digestive and immune systems. We want our bodies to have the ability to combat winter bugs and drinking water will help aid this.
Winter can be very drying for our skin, outside you have cold windy days drying it out and then you go inside you get the artificial heat of reverse cycle aircons which is also drying, so it is important to drink enough water to keep your skin glowing, clear and sparkling.
Winter is a time for comfort food, we tend to eat a little more chocolate or have that extra wine or whatever comfort food it is that you enjoy, which is fine, but it does give your body extra toxins to deal with, so you are doing your body a favour drinking water as it makes the detoxification process easier.
Water also aids food digestion, it boosts your metabolism, increases energy production, helps get your metabolism moving and can help you feel fuller for longer which is great for helping to combat those few extra kilos we tend to put on during the cooler months.
Pretty much every system and function that your body has, requires water to work well.
So how do you drink more water when it is cold out and you only want hot chocolate (or wine!)?
Start your day with a mug of warm water and lemon, before you eat any food. Warm water is kinder to our digestive system. You know the feeling and shock on a hot summers day when you jump into a cold pool as opposed to slipping into a nice warm bath? The same goes for when you drink water. Warm water gently wakes your digestive system up ready for breakfast and the lemon helps aid digestion. This also helps kick start your metabolism and the sooner your metabolism starts in the day, the more energy you will be likely to burn.
Add fruit to you water in order to improve the taste.
Try sparkling instead of still.
You can add ginger, honey, or turmeric to warm water in order to give you a vitamin c and anti-inflammatory boost.
If frequent bathroom use is a problem when trying to increase your water intake add a pinch of salt to your bottle.
Green tea is great for boosting immunity, however don’t rely on herbal teas as your only source of fluid. Many contain caffeine which is a diuretic.
Set goals for yourself and some benchmarks to reach throughout the day– for me I drink a litre of water before I have a coffee, this helps increase my intake as well as combat the dehydrating effects of caffeine.
The best thing to do though, is to try and get consistent and make it a habit, and that means you do it without having to think about it.
Healthy Winter Foods to Help Boost Immunity
Healthy summer foods just aren’t as appealing in winter but we can make healthier choices when it comes to winter comfort foods.
Now the key point I want you to take home today is that there is no one food that will protect you from getting the cold and flu.
The best protection comes from increasing the variety that you eat. When you eat a combination of vitamins and minerals their effects and the impact they have on your immune system multiplies. They work together to boost immunity in a way that is not possible if you were to just eat a particular type of food on it’s own.
Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season – they are going to contain the best sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed for staying healthy this time of year.
There are some great food choices for keeping our immune systems healthy and to help us combat a cold if we unfortunately do catch one.
Vitamin A – carrots, sweet potato, kale, spinach and broccoli
Vitamin C – oranges, capsicum, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli and strawberries
Vitamin D – fatty fish such as tuna and salmon
Zinc – seed mixes, especially pumpkin
Antioxidants – berries and dark chocolate
Anti-inflammatory – tomatoes, leafy green veges, fish, nuts and fruits
So how do you make sure you are getting all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties needed? Get plenty of colour in your diet. Eating a variety of colour in your fresh foods will ensure you are consuming all the vitamins and minerals needed to improve your immunity.
Increasing the variety of colour strengthens our force field.
Winter is a great time to bring out the slow cooker. The benefits of slow cooking are they use whole fresh foods, there is minimal prep, they cook themselves and make lots of leftovers.
Soups, stir fry and roasts are also great winter meals that can help us increase the variety of immune boosting foods we consume.
Use a combination of the above vegetables to create your own winter juices. Beetroot, carrot, ginger and turmeric is a great one. And apple, carrot and orange if you like it a little sweeter and both are great for boosting immunity.
Sugar has a significant impact on our immunity.
Remember how I spoke about our immunity being a force field that we are trying to build up?
The bad news is, sugar weakens your force field and suppresses your immune system from functioning properly. Research has shown that as little as 1 teaspoon of refined sugar has the ability to suppress your immune system for up to 4 hours.
So if you are someone who likes a bit of sugar and often gets sick during winter, maybe consider whether your eating habits are impacting on your ability to stay well.
Try improving the quality of the foods that you eat and reducing the amount of sugar. A great example is swapping milk chocolate for dark chocolate. You increase the quality, reduce the sugar and gain the added benefits of antioxidants without missing out on the feel good vibes chocolate gives.
Hibernate like a bear if you need to
Getting enough sleep and rest in winter is imperative.
It is natural to want to slow down and hibernate a little during winter so honour that. Listen to your body when it tells you to slow down and rest. You put yourself at risk of illness and depression especially in winter if you are not giving your body the chance to rest and recuperate.
Physical activity and going outdoors can help improve our sleep.
Create a bedtime ritual to follow to help you relax before bed
Minimize exposure to bright lights and screens.
Remove your phone from the room.
Aim to be in bed by 10pm
If you need to, really make it a priority.
While getting outdoors is my favorite tip, getting enough sleep is my most important one.
Making it a priority does not mean you are weak, selfish or lazy. It is looking after yourself.
Find the balance
I am a big advocate for balance. We need a bit of everything in our lives in order to be healthy and happy. I am also pro-choice, if you want the chocolate and the wine, enjoy, as long as you are doing it in moderation and as part of a balanced lifestyle.
Never underestimate the importance that happiness plays in being healthy.
Be happy with the choices you make and take time to enjoy the things you love and the best things that winter has to offer. – sometimes that’s staying in, keeping warm and enjoying a weekend of Netflix.