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Eleven Healthy Habits for Winter

By: Grace Derocha, registered
dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross
Blue Shield of Michigan

Throughout the winter months, it’s normal to
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.
Though dehydration is most
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.

Changes to Skin
  • 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
    the winter.

Fatigue and S.A.D.-ness
It’s easy to use cold weather as
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.

Joint Pain
Some people may experience
symptoms of arthritis, joint pain or muscle aches throughout winter. One way to
remedy these include:
  • Low-Impact
    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
    muscle pain.

Weakened Immune System
Experiencing colds, sore
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:
  • Get
    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 for
    more information on available care providers.
  • Sanitize
    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 
  • Include
    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.
A Healthier Michigan
Author: A Healthier Michigan

Our mission is to help everyone in Michigan get healthier from the inside out. This means everything from giving you resources to help you make better decisions about diet and exercise, as well as information on creating and sustaining nurturing communities and successful businesses — everything you need to help create a healthier Michigan.