It’s here again: cold and flu season. No need to begrudgingly slather yourself in antibacterial goop and set out the welcome mat for the viral onslaught. Rather than just tackling the cold or flu when it hits, why not make preemptive action a part of your lifestyle? Here are some habits to incorporate into your life to help you stay strong and healthy, even through the worst of cold and flu season:
Get some reasonable exercise
Find your Goldilocks zone for exercise: not too much, not too little, just the right amount. Overexerting yourself can actually weaken your immune system, since it actually raises stress hormones in the body. You can see this in endurance racers quite often. So perhaps this is the season for a more moderate fitness approach. But, not exercising isn’t good either. Movement helps to circulate the lymph in your body, which contains trapped toxins and invaders that need to be evacuated. Breathing due to physical activity also improves cardiovascular strength. But studies have also shown that as little as 20 minutes of cardio exercise can actually act as an anti-inflammatory to your body that boost immune function. Find out what exercise makes you feel at your peak, and practice moderately throughout the season.
Walk outside in nature
Nature is incredible. If you can get out into a park once or twice a week for a quiet walk, you will do your body and mind some real good. There is plenty of evidence to confirm that spending mindful time in nature drastically improves immunity and reduces stress. Even if you aren’t “an outdoorsy person,” find a way to get yourself outside once in a while. It is innately human and will do a lot of good for your health.
Integrate immune-boosting foods into your diet
Eat lots of seasonal produce. Autumn squash, sweet potatoes and carrots provide lots of vitamin A, which has been shown to strongly support immunity. And don’t forget about medicinal mushrooms, seeds, tea or greens either. Check out this Care2 favorite for more immune boosting noms.
If you haven’t been sleeping well, you do not have a fighting chance when a nasty virus comes your way. Sleep is the time when the body gets to clean house, reassess and reinforce what seems to be lagging. When you don’t get sleep, your body simply won’t be able to keep up with its preventative health measures. Stop skimping on sleep and embrace nap time when you need to. If you are having trouble falling asleep, try these natural remedies to improve your bedtime.
As the months get cooler and the air gets drier, it is important to continue to drink plenty of water and hydrating liquids. Load up on herbal teas. Keep a full canteen always by your side. The body is around 60 percent water. When you get dehydrated, things stop functioning well (including your immune system).
Don’t just lock yourself up during flu season. Getting out and about can really help strengthen your immunity. How? Generally, when you go out to have fun with friends or family, you are reducing stress levels (hopefully!). Relaxing, laughing and shutting down the stress in your body allows your immune system to function at its highest potential. So, instead of staying at home and away from all the germs, go out for some wine or a trivia night with good company. It will improve your mental health, which is great for your immune health, too.
Take a quality immune booster
Rather than just throwing a Hail Mary by chugging orange juice and Emergen-C when you get the sniffles, act proactively. Take supplemental vitamins, especially A and D. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on 18 different bottles of vitamins, one of my favorite immune-boosting supplement blends is Dr. Schnuffie’s Stay Well. This high-potency daily immune support supplement combines all the essential immune boosters: vitamins A, C, D, E and K, zinc and more. It was formulated by a physician and is backed by loads of science, but has none of the sugar or artificial colorings found in most mainstream immune boosters. If you tend to get a lot of colds, a high-potency supplement may be just what the doctor ordered.
This post originally appeared on Care2.com.