As the days grow shorter and the weather grows colder for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s crucial to prepare our habits and bodies accordingly. The increased amounts of darkness and chilly weather are recipes for seasonal depression, illnesses, and overall sluggishness. Winter doesn’t have to be a time of stasis or regression, though—we’ve come up with 5 fall wellness tips to help you make it through the darkest months of the year and stay on track with your wellness goals.
Stock up on vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble nutrient that helps us absorb calcium in our gut from the food we eat and maintain bone density and muscle function. Studies show that it also plays a role regulating mood and immune system function, among other things.
In sunnier months, we humans absorb a significant portion of our daily quota of vitamin D through our skin from direct sunlight. As you may have noticed, however, sunlight becomes less and less available in autumn and winter as the days get shorter and darker, especially in the northernmost regions of North America. This deficiency can lead to a weaker immune system and increased susceptibility to problems with seasonal depression, cardiovascular diseases, and musculoskeletal disorders, to name just a few. Moreover, it’s not simply enough to bask in front of a sunny window—glass blocks the specific UVB frequencies that catalyze the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D in our skin.
Fortunately, vitamin D can be obtained through foods such as fatty fish (trout, salmon, or tuna, for example), milk products, and egg yolk. That being said, the best way to be certain you’re getting enough vitamin D is to take over-the-counter supplements. You can find these in your local grocery store or pharmacy for extremely affordable prices.
Get your flu shot (and COVID vaccination!).
Why is it that we tend to get sick in the fall and winter months? According to Dr. William Schaffner, a combination of prolonged face-to-face contact with others and a decrease in humidity allows respiratory infections like the common cold, the flu, and COVID-19 to spread more effectively.
Everyone’s immune systems are weakened for a variety of factors—insufficient vitamin D, lack of exercise, and poor diets (the holidays really don’t help, do they?). Add being cooped up indoors for extended periods of time to that equation, and you’ve got the perfect breeding ground for a whole variety of communicable diseases.
Once you’ve been under the weather you’re more susceptible to other illnesses, more prone to seasonal depression, and less likely to have energy to take care of your mind and body. Taking precautions against these seemingly unavoidable respiratory viruses can protect your well-being and your productivity. Flu shots and COVID-19 shots are widely available at pharmacies and supermarkets, and are a great way to ensure you stay healthy.
It’s tempting to huddle up on the couch and eat rich, fatty comfort foods to pass the time when it gets cold and dreary outside. However, you’ll feel better if you make an effort to continue eating a well-balanced diet. This should include a wide variety of immune-boosting fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C, vitamin D, and antioxidants, such as citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, and green tea.
The holidays can make it tough to avoid heavy foods and sweets that derail our healthy eating habits. Check out our tips for eating healthy during the holiday season to learn some simple strategies to help keep you on track.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Adequate hydration is arguably the most important aspect of well being, considering the average adult human is about 60% water. It’s easy to forget about drinking water in the winter without high summer temps and sweat reminding us. Hydration is essential to the immune system function. Without it, vital nutrients aren’t transported to our organs effectively and wastes and toxins can’t be pulled from the body. Water facilitates digestion and serotonin production as well.
Colder weather typically brings lower levels of atmospheric humidity along with it, which spells bad news for our organs, and especially our skin. Drinking about 8 glasses of water a day will flush toxins, prevent wrinkles and acne, and improve skin elasticity in addition to hydrating the rest of your organs. Using moisturizers is necessary in order to prevent dry, cracked skin and help lock in precious moisture—and don’t forget the sunscreen when you venture outside!
In short, it’s imperative that you keep up with your water consumption however you can. Get a Nalgene or a water bottle and take it everywhere with you, and make tea instead of coffee when you’re in need of a hot beverage.
Finding a way to stay active is key to wellness in fall and winter months for multiple reasons. Moderate, consistent exercise habits increase blood flow, which helps circulate immune cells. Exercise also helpful in staving off depression and improving sleep, all of which factor into a well-functioning immune system.
A great way to get exercise is by taking up an outdoor winter sport or outdoor activity such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or ice skating to get some much-needed sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. If you can’t get out, make a point to get a gym membership or invest in some exercise equipment in your home—your body and mind will thank you later!
Staying healthy, especially during the fall and winter months, is a full-time gig. Each of our 5 fall wellness tips for better health plays a part in supporting the immune system, regulating mood and keeping the winter doldrums at bay, and helping us feel good about ourselves.
If you are in need of assistance in losing weight or interested in maintaining wellness, we at Blue Sky MD are here to provide that guidance for you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our health professionals to get you on the right path to a healthier you.
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