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Fitness Facts: How to prepare for cold and flu season

By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services

Fall is just around the corner … and so is cold and flu season.

Here are 17 ways you can stay healthy as the busyness of school and fall festivities approaches.

Connie Colbert

1. Choose alternative comfort foods

Try swapping a traditional pizza crust for whole wheat, cauliflower or hemp — it can add important fiber and nutrients to your meal. Also, rethink the typical explosion of cheese and pepperoni. Add as many vegetables as you want and throw in some lean protein. Use a lesser amount of cheese and choose a low sodium tomato sauce (or simply use olive oil) to reduce fat, sodium and caloric intake. For pasta, use an alternative such as whole wheat or chickpeas, and create a healthier mac=and-cheese by adding veggies.

2. Move more and sit less

Try walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

3. Consume immunity-boosting foods

As the weather gets colder and flu season starts, it’s important for your immune system to be boosted. Eating healthy foods with Vitamin C (such as limes, oranges and clementines) is key to fighting off infections. Garlic, ginger, spinach and almonds are also big winners when it comes to boosting your health and immunity.

4. Instead of eating out, dine in with your family

Fall is a perfect time to slow down. It’s also a great time to regroup as a family and reconnect over dinner. It has been shown that families who dine together tend to eat more nutritious meals. It also strengthens family relationships and even can help fast eaters slow down and appreciate food more.

5. Get your flu shot

Want to know how to stay healthy during flu season? Get the once-a-year flu vaccine. The vaccine can reduce flu illnesses, missed work and doctor’s office visits. The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting the vaccine before the end of October. The vaccine is available at most pharmacies and at our Canyon Health and Wellness clinic for little to no cost.

6. Choose healthy in-season foods

This time of year, beautiful vegetables and fruits make their appearance in grocery stores across the nation. Some of the nutrient-dense options to consider adding to your plate: brussels sprouts, butternut squash, crab apples, cranberries and turnips. Get adventurous and try a new produce item!

7. Keep your sleep routine

As the sun goes down earlier, it can throw off your natural circadian rhythm. Try to maintain a sleep schedule of at least seven hours and keep your normal bedtime and waking hours the same as the rest of the year.

8. Moisturize your skin

In the fall and winter months, the air is drier and can make your skin extra dry. Also, do not forget the sunscreen.

9. Drink your water

As it gets colder, your body can lose as much fluid as it might in hot climates because of the high rates of energy used in colder climates. Thanks to heavier clothing, you’ll sweat more. Drinking water also will keep your skin supple, which can be a problem as the weather gets drier. Keep your water intake high as fall fades into winter.

10. Switch up your fitness routine

Try a new class, such as kickboxing or barre, to get your cardio fix. Try an app – there are several, such as FitOn, that are free and provide a variety of choices for fitness classes for all shapes, sizes and fitness levels.

11. Get enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that helps the body absorb calcium. Cod liver oil, salmon, tuna and milk are a few ways to get your Vitamin D from food. And if you cannot get enough Vitamin D by the food you are eating, consider taking a daily supplement. The recommended daily dose by the National institutes of Health is 600 IU.

12. Minimize your sugar intake

Watch out for those high sugar comfort coffees and hot chocolate drinks! Don’t grab the bag of candy or cookies. Instead, reach for a bag of carrots or apples.

13. Sanitize your most touched items

Your cellphone, keyboard, remote and tablet are all germ habitats. Sanitize those areas weekly, if not daily, with Clorox wipes throughout cold and flu season.

14. Keep hand sanitizer nearby

The best way to avoid the spread of germs is to scrub your hands with warm, soapy water. But if you can’t do that, hand sanitizer is the second-best option.  

15. Schedule your annual checkup

Now is the time to schedule the annual physical you’ve been putting off all year. Get bloodwork and all the accompanying tests done in this calendar year to maximize your health care benefit.

16. Watch those football party calories

Four quarters is a long time to be in front of the TV while eating high-calorie foods. If you do it for every college and pro game, that is a lot of extra calories and pounds over one football season. Enjoy, but modify your own game plan. Drink a light beer, fill up on veggies and consider healthy alternatives to normal game day fare.

17. Enjoy the cooler weather outdoors

Once the cooler weather is here, there is no better time to enjoy the outdoors. Take in the beauty of the changing leaves, the crisp air and the sounds of nature. A walk in nature can boost your mood and creativity while also relaxing you.