Over the last 2+ years, the most pressing matter worldwide has been COVID-19. While millions around the world await a return to normalcy, what better time to reflect and discuss some strategies to keep you healthy and boost your immune system for the present moment and future. Here are 4 suggestions:
Sleep is one of the most important factors in health and overall immune function. During sleep your body releases proteins called cytokines. Certain ones are especially needed when your body is under stress or fighting an infection or virus. Sleep deprivation decreases your body’s natural production of cytokines and makes your body more susceptible to viruses like the common cold. According to the MAYO clinic, infection fighting antibodies are also reduced during periods where you sleep less than you should. For the average adult, at least 7 hours of restful sleep is recommended.
You are what you eat. While there is no single food that can cure illness, eating the right foods can certainly help reduce your chances of obesity, diabetes, hypertension amongst other issues which plague our country. Eating a well balanced diet of lean protein, moderate carbohydrates and heart healthy fats will help give your system everything it needs to stay healthy. Don’t forget your fruits and vegetables either. They’re loaded with heart healthy antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients. The key with any diet is to eat enough to support day to day human activity, limiting excess calories which will generally be stored as body fat. The best diet is the one you’ll stick to. Find something that fits your needs.
During times of crisis, it’s even more important to practice stress management. There are many different ways to do this. Mindfulness through breathing and or meditation practices, reading a book, gardening, hanging out with friends you name it. Managing a healthy level of cortisol in your body, by managing your external stressors is so extremely important as your body views actual and perceived threats in the same manner. Health experts have labeled chronic stress as the “silent” killer. During this pandemic it’s important to practice mindfulness and maintain strong social connections, even if it means practicing physical distancing.
The benefits here are endless. Whether it’s improving heart health or circulation, or simply lowering stress and improving your mood, simple movement might be the single strongest tool humans have to make change. Exercise will look different for everyone. Walking 30 minutes per day is more than enough for the majority of people in our country to stave off obesity and other health risk factors. Throw in 1-2 days of resistance training (20-30 minutes) and you have yourself an extremely effective program. One that will keep excess weight off, help reduce stress, and keep you healthy into your later years.
While these 4 things are NOT cures for any diseases, as a fitness professional, I truly believe that they are the top 4 measures we can all take as a society in preventative medicine. Learn to take care of yourself now. Start slow, and don’t try to make drastic changes all at once. Try and get an extra 30 minutes of sleep. Cut out 2-3 snacks per week. Start reading a book or take up a meditation practice. Get off the couch and start moving even if it’s for 5 minutes. We all have to start somewhere. Why not start now?