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5 health habits to embrace during winter

Stave off the germs and keep fit this winter with our tips


Every year as the mercury drops, those living south of Sydney bring out the parkas, brollies and snow boots, while those who live closer to the equator shiver their way through 20° mornings with a light cashmere throw.

But despite our differences, the reality is we’re all facing a common enemy – the winter cold.

This year, up your chances of staving off the germs by embracing a few simple health habits; being prepared could be the difference between singing in the rain and being stuck in bed with a nasty cough.

1. Sleep

Feel like you haven’t visited the land of nod for a while? If you want to boost your immunity, it’s time to start planning regular trips.

Sleep is scientifically proven to have a direct impact on your immune system. Depriving your body of sleep will not only make you susceptible to the cold and flu bugs going around, but it may also lead to inflammation.

The Sleep Health Foundation recommends most adults aim for between 7-9 hours of sleep each night and if you’re having trouble, check out this article on good sleep habits for some simple tips.

Depriving your body of sleep will make you susceptible to the cold and flu bugs going around

2. Greens

Didn’t your parents always tell you to eat your greens? Well, turns out it was for a good reason.

Researchers have found that cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and kale) play an important part in controlling the immune cells that are essential for a healthy digestive system – keeping bad bacteria out of the intestine and helping prevent or minimise the impact of conditions like bowel cancer and inflammatory disease.

If you need help including some greens in your dinner, check out our exclusive recipe from Jessica Sepel: Honey-soy salmon with veggies.

3. Massage

As if you needed another excuse to indulge in a massage, researchers have found that massage can benefit your immune system. In a study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, some participants received a 45 minute Swedish massage, while the control group received 45 minutes of light touching. Blood samples were taken from both groups before and after the massage and showed that those who had the Swedish massage had an increased number of lymphocytes – white blood cells that help defend your body from disease.

nib offers a number of Extras policies that pay back Benefits for remedial massage. You should check with nib before you go to be sure your massage provider is covered by us. If you don’t already have nib health insurance, you can get a quote online in just a few minutes.

4. Vitamin D

Getting your daily dose of vitamin D is harder than you think – especially in winter. Professor Rebecca Mason, spokesperson for Osteoporosis Australia, explained to Coach,

“Overall in Australia, about 10 to 15 percent of people have low vitamin D levels at the end of summer, and in winter this rises to 30 to 50 percent of people.”

So, it’s essential to pay attention to the vitamin D you’re getting both coming into winter and throughout the winter months. Research has long shown that vitamin D is good for bone density and calcium levels, but recent research has found that there’s a link between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune disease.

It’s tricky to identify exactly how much vitamin D is enough, as it all depends on your skin colour and where you live, so it’s best to get some advice from your GP or skin specialist.

5. Exercise

We’ve long heralded the importance of exercise when it comes to reducing your risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, but when the temperatures drop it can be harder than ever to get the motivation up to move.

During winter, it’s a good idea to get into a rhythm with your exercise routine - find a class or regime that you can commit to for the next three months. The general guideline is to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which should consist of a combination of moderate, vigorous and muscle strengthening activities.

Interested in life hacks, recipes and fitness tips? Check out the Healthy Living tab on The Check Up.

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