Eleven Healthy Habits for Winter
dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross
Blue Shield of Michigan
feel a change in physical and mental well-being—In fact, reports show that Americans practice less healthy habits during the
cold season. Though a variety of environmental factors affect this, there are
behaviors and routines that can help ensure a healthy mind, body and spirit early
in the new year and beyond.
often associated with summertime and high temperatures, it’s also common during
cold months. At any time of year, it only takes a one or two-percent drop in
water weight to begin experiencing symptoms of dehydration.
- Consciously Drink More Water: A general
rule of thumb for adults is to aim for at least half their body weight in
ounces of water daily. Athletes and individuals managing diabetes or kidney
disease, among other chronic illnesses, should consult their primary care provider
to determine the appropriate daily water intake. A great way to stay on track
is drinking one glass before every meal.
Those who have a hard time with this should try infusing
it with fruit, vegetables and herbs to give it more flavor.
- Eat Hydrating Foods: Approximately 80 percent of hydration comes from liquids and 20 percent comes from foods.
Consuming water-dense foods such as celery, cucumbers,
strawberries and watermelon can naturally hydrate the body. It’s also important
to include foods that increase the body’s electrolyte-count such as cheese,
milk, pickles or yogurt.
- Get Some Vitamin D: People who reside in areas with shorter
periods of daylight throughout winter are more susceptible to vitamin D
deficiencies. Vitamin D is important to not only keep bones strong, but support the prevention of
heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, strokes, high blood
pressure, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. To avoid any deficiency in vitamin D,
consult with a doctor on supplements or consume foods like salmon, tuna,
mackerel, mushrooms and eggs that naturally nourish the body with vitamin D.
- Hydrate Inside and Out: Drinking water nourishes the cells, from the
inside out. This keeps the skin, our largest organ, healthy. Regularly using
lotion or oils helps trap moisture to keep skin soft and hydrated throughout
an excuse to stay indoors or be less active; however, chronic sedentariness
increases the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, colon cancer, depression
and anxiety, obesity and weak muscles and bones. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64
percent of people say they are affected by the “holiday blues,” or experience
symptoms of depression and anxiety during this time of year. There are many ways
to address seasonal gloom and exhaustion, including:
- Physical Activity: Every individual should aim for at least 30
minutes of exercise a day to get their blood flowing and boost energy levels. Those
who enjoy working out outside, can still do so
in the winter by dressing for the weather, warming up inside first, and
decreasing workout time.
- Guided Support: If the “holiday blues” persist through two consecutive seasons, it meets
the criteria for Seasonal Affect Disorder
(SAD), a major depressive disorder that can take place during any season.
Consider reaching out to a friend, loved one or physician for guidance,
resources and support.
- Appropriate Rest: Because winter is naturally darker, it can make it easy to extend a
typical eight-hour night of sleep into 12. Believe it or not, sleeping too much is also
unhealthy. Regular exercise or artificial lighting can help combat
oversleeping. Adults should try for at least six to eight hours each night.
symptoms of arthritis, joint pain or muscle aches throughout winter. One way to
remedy these include:
Exercise: Throughout winter, try activities that promote strength training
and burn calories without strain or discomfort. Swimming, water aerobics, tai
chi and yoga are great low-impact exercises for those struggling with joint or
throat, stomach bugs and the flu are all common throughout the winter months. Thankfully,
along with a healthy diet and exercise, these tactics can help:
Vaccinated: The flu kills an average of 20,000 people every year–even those considered healthy. Throughout the
winter, keep in mind the importance of vaccinations, and where/when flu shots
are available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers
an easy-to-navigate flu vaccine finder, but Blue Cross members can also visit bcbsm.com/findcare for
more information on available care providers.
Spaces: A clean household and workspace can
help stop the spread of germs throughout this time of year. Remember to wash hands frequently, sanitize
surfaces and avoid contact with others when feeling under the weather
Probiotics: Probiotics are good bacteria the body needs to promote proper
digestion and gut health. Eighty percent of the body’s immunity lies in the
digestive tract. Incorporate probiotic foods daily such as yogurt, kefir,
kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, aged cheeses and dark chocolate
(with at least 70 percent cacao) to help boost the immune system.