How to stay well during winter
Staying well in winter can be challenging. While you may feel fit and healthy, there will be others around you at work and at home with a runny nose, sore throat and a cough. We believe that colder weather and shorter days shouldn’t stop you from looking after your health. Our highly trained and experienced GP’s and nurses have put these tips together to help you stay well throughout winter.
How to prevent illness during winter
Colds and influenza are more common in winter, but you can take steps to ensure you’re not vulnerable to catching them. A cold is a general term for a sinus/throat/upper airway infection caused by a number of common viruses (e.g. rhinovirus). It will generally get worse for the first 3-4 days, and can make you feel pretty awful, but will usually be better within 5-7 days with rest and fluids. Antibiotics are not helpful to take if you have a cold because it is caused by a virus.
Influenza, or the flu, is a more severe viral illness caused by the influenza virus and can be particularly dangerous in the very young, the elderly and those who are pregnant. It’s important to note that the flu is a serious health condition that can be potentially life-threatening. If you suspect you have the flu (high fevers or shaking with fevers, severe muscle aches, nasty cough or feeling very unwell), it’s essential to see your GP immediately. Make sure you call ahead to alert the reception team so they can provide you with a separate waiting area.
To protect you and your family from colds and flu in winter it’s essential to:
- Get immunised from influenza. This is important for everyone to do to help limit the spread of the flu and help protect those who are vulnerable to it
- Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough. Make sure all used tissues are disposed of in a bin. Alternatively, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow
- Thoroughly wash your hands for 15-20 seconds, ensuring you lather the soap. Dry your hands with a clean towel after rinsing
- If you don’t have access to water and soap, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean
- Regularly clean objects and surfaces including phones, mobile phones, keyboards and door handles
If you have influenza, you must stay home from work and school. It’s also vital that you limit your contact with others by avoiding shopping centres, public transport and other areas where a large number of people congregate.
As you recover from a cold or flu, it’s important to stay well hydrated with water and to get plenty of sleep. To reduce fever, muscle aches or headaches, you could take paracetamol and/or an anti-inflammatory (such as ibuprofen). While staying home and resting is the best way to treat a cold, we suggest you book an appointment with one of our GPs if you’re not feeling better after a few days.
Eat healthy and nutritious food
Enjoying a variety of delicious and nourishing foods all year round is a great boost for our health.
We suggest eating foods high in:
Antioxidants – found in seasonal fruits and vegetables such as oranges, mandarins, kale, spinach
Vitamin A such as sweet potato and carrots
Vitamin E found in green veggies like spinach, kale and broccoli as well as nuts and seeds
We also recommend:
- Regularly eating fruit
- Include a source of whole grains, protein and vegetables as part of your main meals
- Add extra serves of vegetables to your main meal of the day
- Make casseroles, stews and soups with lots of vegetables. Freeze batches for easy dinner solutions during the week.
- It is normal to feel like eating processed foods like chocolate, chips, pizza and biscuits. Be kind to yourself – enjoy them sometimes and in small amounts.
Your body needs plenty of water during winter even though the weather is cooler. Regular drinks of water throughout the day can help to keep you hydrated. If you are sick with a cold or flu, keep your fluids up, have small simple meals throughout the day to maintain energy levels and boost recovery. And of course rest!
Need help with your nutrition and diet? Book a consultation with Access Health and Community Nutritionists and Dietitians by contacting us on 03 9810 3000.
How to stay active in winter
During the colder months, it can be hard to get motivated to get outside and stay active. But your fitness regime doesn’t need to be put on the back burner until spring or summer. Here are some activities to help you stay active during winter:
- Join your local gym over the winter months. Attend their group exercise classes, book a personal training session or try out Pilates or Yoga classes
- Swim in your local heated pool or try an aqua aerobics class
- Get a group of friends together and book a game of indoor soccer or indoor tennis once a week
- Hire a treadmill or exercise bike at home for a few months. Exercise at home in front of the TV before or after work.
When it’s darker and cold it can be hard to feel motivated to get out and about and if you have any chronic disease or aches and pain that can make it harder. At Access Health & Community our physiotherapists can provide assessment and treatment to get you to exercise ready no matter what your ailments are. Together with and allied assistants they lead over 30 exercise classes a week. They can also match you with the right class for you.
Examples of these classes include:
- Good Living with OsteoArthritis from Denmark (GLA:D). This is a researched program to help people with hip or knee osteoarthritis. It helps reduce pain and improve function
- Fitness and Friendship. This is a slower-paced exercise group for people with chronic health conditions
- Tai chi. This class helps develop strength, balance and posture.
Staying active over winter also means paying attention to how much time you spent sitting down. Wearing an activity tracker and setting goals for the number of steps you’d like to achieve every day can be a good motivation.
When you’re walking or running outside, it’s important during winter to stay warm and be aware the footpaths can be slippery. Make sure your shoes are non-slip and wear a headlamp or use your phone torch if you’re in dark areas.
Sticking to a weekly exercise plan during winter can be easier if you plan it out a week in advance. We suggest you write down your schedule over the weekend and choose what activity you’re going to do each day. Staying motivated can also be easier if you invite a friend or neighbour to join you on your fitness journey.
Get advice on how to stay well in winter
We know that winter can be a trying time physically and mentally. And while it’s tempting to say inside and hibernate until spring, we can help you stay healthy and in top condition throughout the colder months. To fit and healthy during winter, a proactive approach to fitness, health and nutrition is needed. Book an appointment with our GP today to help you stay healthy in winter.