You may be lining up fun spring and summer plans now, but in order to fully enjoy your summer, you need to focus on your health now during the winter. These six tips will help you be in top shape for the upcoming months.
1. Eat more citrus
While citrus is available any time of year, it is considered in season (and usually cheaper) in the winter months. All fruits and vegetables offer many health benefits, but citrus fruits, in particular, can provide many health benefits especially when they are in season.
Citrus fruits are high in many antioxidants including vitamin C. Antioxidants can protect cells from damage and can play a role in immune function. Citrus fruits provide many other nutrients including fiber, B vitamins and many polyphenols (even more antioxidant compounds).
Limes, lemons, grapefruit and a variety of oranges can be added to salads, juices in vinaigrettes or sauces, fresh-squeezed juices or as a winter citrus smoothie.
2. Get outside (even if it’s cold!)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the “winter blues” may have you feeling down, lethargic and may also impact appetite during the winter months. Getting outside, even if it’s not warm and sunny, may help alleviate SAD and be beneficial for your mental health.
A 2014 study found walking outside can have a positive impact on cognition, stimulate creativity and increase the flow of ideas. There is something about being in the fresh air and NOT inside that we are designed to positively respond to mentally. Getting outside as much as possible, even for a short bit during winter, can help you mentally stay healthy through winter.
3. Take more movement breaks during the day
Sitting for long periods of time—whether working, commuting or at home—has been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and other harmful health conditions. Breaking up your sitting time throughout the day can be beneficial for your health any time of the year. However, during the winter, it may be easier than warmer months to stay inside and move LESS.
Adding in movement to your day, even if it’s a lap or two around the office or short walk outside, can break up your sitting time and stimulate your muscles.
Mayo Clinic suggests taking a break from sitting every 30 minutes.
Another bonus for adding in movement in the winter: physical activity can help flush out bacteria from your airways and reduce your risk of getting sick.
4. Stay hydrated
We are more likely to reach for fluids when we feel warm. However, maintaining your hydration during the winter is just as important as in warmer seasons. Also in winter, it may not be as intuitive when you are slightly dehydrated. According to the European Hydration Institute, fluid loss can be just as high in cold climates as in warm climates. When the body is colder, water loss and urine output can increase.
Not staying hydrated during the winter can make you feel sluggish, cause headaches and drier skin and may negatively affect your immune system. Therefore, getting enough fluids during the winter is a key part of staying healthy.
How much fluids you need depends on age, activity level, climate, body size and other health parameters. However, an easy way to gauge your hydration level throughout the day is from the color of your urine. Very pale to clear color indicates you are probably hydrated, but a darker urine color throughout the day could indicate you are not adequately hydrated.
Choose primarily water for your fluid needs. Remember, this can be hot water, like tea, during the winter. Homemade soups and fruits can also add to your total fluid intake, and limit sweetened beverages to a minimum.
5. Wash your hands A LOT
With flu season in full swing, winter season may feel synonymous with getting sick season. However, one of the first lines of defense against the flu—or other nasty bacteria or viruses—is the seemingly humble act of thoroughly washing your hands.
Washing your hands is still one of the best and first lines of defense against sickness. Of course, we know to wash our hands after the bathroom or before making food. It’s also important to remember to wash your hands:
- Before eating
- Right after you get home
- Before touching your face (probably the hardest one)
- After being in busy places like public transportation or community rooms
Remember: washing your hands is more than getting them wet. Rinse, lather and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
6. Eat more meals at home
Research has shown the more meals are eaten at home instead of eating out, the healthier the diet. Eating at home can help you eat more fruits and veggies while eating fewer total calories. An added bonus of eating more meals at home is you save money too.
What may not be surprising is one of the biggest barriers to eating more at home is the lack of time. To help make eating at home easy, make a weekly plan for meals and do some, or all, meal prep on a weekend day. That can alleviate time needed during your busy week coming home from work, picking the kids up, etc.
This winter, aim to eat more meals at home not only for your health but to set a habit throughout the rest of the year.