Winter Health and Wellbeing

February 26th, 2018

This long old winter shows no sign of easing up does it? With more snow and ice predicted for most of the UK this week, the winter weather is set to continue, and the thought of Spring seems a very long way away!

Winter can be a prime time for coughs, sneezes, cold and the flu, as the germs spread through offices, schools and homes. So if you’re fed up of the winter sniffles, then here’s our handy guide to keep you in the best of health for the rest of the winter…… With a little extra care and attention you’ll be able to stay fit, healthy and fabulous during the chilly days and long cold nights.

Coughs and sneezes

According to doctors, most of us can except to catch between two and four colds a year, and of course, they are especially common during the winter months. As there are over 100 viruses that can cause a cold, they can be pretty difficult to avoid! However, the best way to avoid catching a cold is to keep your body’s natural defences high with a good diet, exercise and plenty of sleep. (Sebastian Smit)

Experts believe that the simply washing your hands thoroughly and often is one of the biggest steps towards the prevention of spreading viruses. If your job involves being out and about and you find it difficult to wash your hands, then carry an anti-bacterial gel or some wipes with you.

It’s also important that the central heating isn’t constantly cranked up to maximum. Hot, dry air with low humidity causes membranes in your nose and throat to split and crack which means tiny entry points for germs and viruses.

If you do feel the tingly nose and itchy throat that mean the onset of a cold, then it’s important to relax and take it easy. Increase your vitamin C intake, and try an Echinacea supplement. Avoid alcohol and dairy products if possible and make sure you drink plenty of water.

Eat Healthy, Eat Fresh

Salad and fruit may not be the food of choice during the cold winter months, when all you crave is warming and stodgy comfort food. However, hearty can still mean healthy, and there are easy ways you can keep up your veggie intake.

Home-made soups and stews are a great way to your five a day. Pack them full of fresh vegetables and herbs and they will pack you full of vitamins and antioxidants. Add some beans or pulses for low fat protein to keep you fuller for longer. Make a huge pot at the weekend, and you’ll have cheap, wholesome and healthy lunches to last you all week.

It’s also important to eat as seasonally as you can. Seasonal winter fruit and veg will taste far better and have a higher vitamin content than imported “summer” produce. Fill up on root vegetables, pumpkins, leeks sprouts and garlic, and snack on apples, figs and pears.

Another winter warming trick is to spice up your food with flavourings like chilli, ginger, garlic and cinnamon and if you can use fresh spices and herbs, then so much the better. Fresh garlic for example, is extremely high in Allicin, which strengthens your immune system, reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure. Never mind about the garlic breath!


Only Skin Deep

Skin can be a sensitive soul, and it’s especially susceptible to problems during winter months. Cold temperatures, stinging winds and artificial heat can lead to dry, chapped and even broken skin.

Try to regulate temperatures indoors. Going from very cold temperatures outdoors to very hot rooms indoors can damage your skin as it struggles to cope with the changes. Central heating should be warm but not baking, and using a humidifier (make your own simple one by putting a bowl of water by the radiator) will help keep moisture in the air. Although it may be tempting to soak for hours in a hot bath or shower, hot water actually dehydrates the skin, stripping it of its natural oils much quicker than cold water.

A good moisturiser is essential. Use it often, especially after a bath or shower. You may find that your hands need extra care, so choose a rich, nourishing moisturiser to avoid chapping. It also important to continue using an SPF of at least 15 in your facial moisturiser, as rays can penetrate even the cloudiest of days.

Lips can be a sore point in winter; as they don’t have oil glands they can dry out especially easily and are often exposed to all elements. Make sure your lips stay mistletoe kissable and protect them by using a rich lip balm, with SPF if possible and try to avoid licking them if they do dry out. If the weather is really biting, then cover your lower face with a warm scarf to keep the drying wind out.

Get Active!

It’s so tempting to hibernate indoors in the cold and wet winter months, but keeping up an exercise regime is really important to keep your immune system strong and your fitness levels steady. It will also kick-start a sluggish metabolism and will provide a surge of all those fabulous feel-good chemicals that the brain may lack during winter.

If you find it difficult to drag yourself for a run outdoors, try signing up for a trial at your local gym and make the most of indoor activities such as squash or swimming. Winter is also a good time to try new sports or evening classes. Check out yoga, aerobics or spinning classes in your area.

Winter doesn’t have to mean grey, wet and windy days; even the UK has the occasional bright, crisp and sunny spell. Make the most of these and get outdoors, even if it’s for a stroll around the park at lunchtime. The cold temperatures mean you’ll burn more calories as your body uses more energy to stay warm and the sunlight will give your levels of vitamin D a much needed boost. (Helmut Gevert)

Don’t be SAD

Long winter days, lack of sunlight and a decrease in social activity during winter months may lead to the onset of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in some people, or the “winter blues” as it’s commonly known. SAD affects up to 10% of people in Northern Europe and is more commonly found in women than men. Symptoms include extreme tiredness, depression, anxiety, irritability and overeating, all caused by a lack of sunlight which changes the chemistry in the brain.

If you think you may be suffering from a depressive illness such as SAD, then it’s essential to seek medical advice. However mild cases can be improved by spending as much time as possible outdoors, exercising and eating well. It also helps to stay sociable; don’t hide away under the duvet. Make plans, meet friends, explore where you live and surround yourself with positive, upbeat influences.

Research has also shown that giving something back can increase levels of Oxytocin, the feel good chemical in the brain. If you’re feeling down and you can’t put your finger on it, try playing the good Samaritan by helping in your local community or giving up a little time for someone who needs your help. You’ll be surprised at how good it makes you feel.