5 health and wellness tips for the winter

“Baby, it’s cold outside…” Indeed, it is! In the last few weeks, cold temperatures have set in across the south, bringing with them a whole new set of challenges for our health and wellness. But there are things you can do to make sure your health stays on track!

Seemingly overnight, the weather in east Tennessee turned from temperate and fall-like to bitterly cold and even frigid. When the weather cools off, our habits often change, making us less active and more likely to remain indoors.

Winter also brings the peak of cold and flu season, and Tennessee and other southern states are already fighting off cases of the flu.

So how can you protect your health? Let’s take a look at five key steps you can take.

Winter health and wellness tip 1: Stay hydrated

You might think of dehydration as something connected with hot weather and sunny days. But that’s not really the case. While hot days can make you thirsty more quickly, your body’s hydration needs don’t change as the seasons do.

You need just as much water to replenish your body each day in the winter as you do during the summer. And believe it or not, you’re still sweating away plenty of water even when it’s cold outside.

The best strategy to make sure you stay hydrated is to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. If plain water isn’t your thing, don’t worry — you can increase your water intake with other beverages and with foods. Choose fruits and vegetables with a high water content, like peppers, cucumbers, berries and citrus fruits.

Winter health and wellness tip 2: Get plenty of sleep

With the flu season in full swing, you want your immune system in the best of shape. One way to make sure it stays that way? Make sleep a priority.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends most adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Are you getting enough?

If not, there’s even more reason during the winter to get plenty of sleep. In one study, researchers found that men who slept only four hours a night for one week were only about half as able to fight off the flu as those who slept seven or more.

Winter health and wellness tip 3: Wash those hands

During the winter, most people keep their doors and windows closed, which means there’s less air circulating through buildings. Because of that, germs can linger longer on surfaces like doorknobs, TV remotes and light switches.

Have you ever really stopped to think about the objects you touch each day that lots of other people touch too? That’s one reason it’s especially important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water.

Wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom, after changing a diaper, and after coming in contact with someone who’s sick or a potentially germy surface. If you don’t have immediate access to soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizer will work in a pinch.

Winter health and wellness tip 4: Stay active

The cold, gray days of winter often make us feel sleepy and unmotivated to exercise. But it’s important to keep exercising regularly throughout the year.

Regularly being physically active has been shown to help boost the immune system, which in turn can help you fend off illnesses during the winter months. And beyond ramping up your immunity, exercise can also help improve your mood and increase your energy levels.

Do you usually exercise outdoors? In the winter, you have a couple options — move your workout indoors for a few months or bundle up and head outside in the cold temps. If you choose the latter, dress in layers, with a sweat-wicking layer closest to your skin and a wind- and water-resistant layer on top. And don’t forget warm gloves and socks!

Winter health and wellness tip 5: Stay social

We know — the couch and a cozy blanket seem like the ideal companions when the weather is frosty. But there’s something to be said for getting out with friends and family.

Did you know that social isolation and loneliness can be just as dangerous to your health as many medical conditions? That’s why it’s important to include socializing in your busy schedule.

And spending time with loved ones also can help diminish the harmful effects of stress and strengthen your immune system. So time with people you love and better health? That’s a win-win!

Tip No. 6? Schedule a wellness checkup with your doctor to gauge where your health stands and where you can improve. Need a doctor? Find one here.