It may be starting to get cold outside, but winter doesn’t have to be a time when you neglect your health. Here are five ways you can keep healthy and fit during the winter months.
1. Check Your Diet
When it's cold and dark outside, many of us find ourselves reaching for unhealthy, “stodgy”, snacks, in a bid to stave off the effects of miserable weather and make ourselves feel better. The occasional treat is perfectly fine in moderation; however, it's important to make sure you still have a healthy diet, even in winter.
Ideally you should aim to get the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day, yet if you find yourself struggling to get your 5-a-day, you are not alone; it's estimated that 70% of the general public aren’t eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.₁
Fruit and veg are great sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre – essential nutrients that your body needs to help you feel your best. Whilst eating the wrong foods can make you feel lethargic, a healthy, balanced diet can actually help you feel more positive and energetic – good to know!
2. Tuck into hearty foods
Winter is an ideal time to discover a taste for warming, comfort food; pumpkins and root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into a hearty soup for a comforting winter meal.
Eating high-fibre and wholegrain foods, such as wholegrain porridge or pulses, will help you feel fuller for longer whilst aiding with digestion. A steaming bowl of oatmeal, topped with an array of sliced fruit, seeds and nuts, makes an ideal winter breakfast. In fact, starchy foods are an excellent source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. As well as starch, they contain fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins.2
3. Try to get as much daylight as you can
Feeling sluggish and lethargic is not uncommon during the winter months, and can make staying indoors, lounging on the sofa a tempting prospect! Chances are, it’s melatonin3 making you sleepy; a hormone produced by your brain in the dark, or when you’re not getting enough sunlight. So, when the days get shorter, grab your gloves and get outdoors to soak up as much natural daylight as possible.
Even if you do get outside, however, you may still need to consider supplementing your vitamin D intake. One of the functions of vitamin D is that it contributes to the maintenance of normal bones and teeth. For those living in the southern parts of Australia, where the UV Index regularly falls below 3 throughout the winter months, it can be difficult to get the minimum amount of Vitamin D from the sun. The Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society suggests that a minimum of between two and three hours per week of exposure to as much bare skin as feasible may be required to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D.4 But it's not just the southern areas of the country who aren't getting adequate sunlight. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has identified that one in four Australians is vitamin D deficient.5 It is certainly worth speaking with your GP or Pharmacist if you think you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency as they can help you determine whether it's worth considering a vitamin D supplement.
4. Support your immune system
Although vitamin C cannot prevent a cold, or speed up recovery, it contributes to the normal function of the immune system. Oranges, broccoli and many other fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamin C,6 however this vitamin can’t be stored in the body, meaning you need to include it in your daily diet. When life gets busy, getting enough of the right foods each day can sometimes seem like a big ask; if you struggle to get your recommended 40mg6 of vitamin C each day, supplements offer a convenient way to support your intake.
If you’re looking for a way to avoid catching a common cold this winter, a good place to start is by taking care of your overall health and fitness levels.
5. Keep up with the exercise
Physical activity can boost self-esteem, mood and energy,7 as well as improving general fitness levels. A recent study showed that a 10-minute workout, including just a single minute of very intense exercise, may produce health benefits similar to longer, traditional methods of endurance training.8 So, there really is no excuse for not getting in shape - there really is enough time!