Boost your immune system13 October, 2013 0 comments
Boost your immune system to be ready for winter workouts
Winter weather tends to come with runny noses and coughy throats. But as a runner, you’ll still want to get the best out of outdoor workouts! So how do you cope when people around you are coming down with seasonal flu symptoms, and the weather seems to be out to get you as well?
Here are some suggestions for boosting your immune system. Keep the illnesses at bay and keep on running!
Keep on training
Unless you’ve fallen ill, there is no reason to skip a workout – maintaining a consistent training habit strengthens your immune system. Researchers at the University of South Carolina report that people who regularly engage in sports are 20% less likely to get a cold than those who lead an inactive lifestyle. This is partly due to the fact that toxins, bacteria and viruses are filtered more effectively from your blood and lymph. So the first advice is – just keep going!
But don’t go too hard
You are most vulnerable to illnesses after races and long workouts, since these temporarily weaken your immune system. Therefore, if you want to lessen the chance of catching a virus, you should decrease the amount of long workouts that you do. Of course improving your performance is important, but if you’re worried about compromising your immune system, you should make sure not to increase both intensity and volume of your workouts at the same time. Don’t worry - you’ll still improve when taking things more gradually, and maintain good health as well.
Don’t forget to rest
Your body recovers when you rest – and so does your immune system. Therefore, make sure that you give yourself adequate recovery time after workouts. Most importantly, make it a habit to sleep enough hours each night. Those who get less than seven hours of sleep per night are about three times more likely to get a cold than people who get a whole eight hours of sleep. The individual need for sleep is of course varied, so be guided by what your body tells you. This must be the easiest way of boosting your immune system – just go to sleep!
Take care of yourself after hard workouts and races
As already mentioned, you are most vulnerable after races and really hard workouts. This means that you also have to take extra good care of yourself at this time to make sure you don’t come into contact with viruses and bacteria. What does that mean? Be meticulous about washing your hands, especially after leaving a crowded gym. Additionally, avoid going to crowded places like shopping centres a few days after a race. Reducing any possible contact with germs 72 hours after a race lessens your chance of catching the flu.
Stress can seriously impact the ability of your body to defend you from illnesses. Therefore it is especially important to keep the levels of stress low during flu season. Isn’t it nice to have another reason to take it easy? Try spending more time with friends and family – researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University have found that those who have close relationships with their family and friends are less likely to catch the cold.
Who said boosting the immune system isn’t fun? Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that having sex strengthens the body’s response to pathogens and thus makes it less likely for you to fall ill. Definitely a way to put those dark winter evenings to good use!
A balanced diet that provides enough energy, macronutrients, vitamins and minerals is the cornerstone of a strong immune system. Therefore, make sure that you have whole foods and varied sources of micronutrients on your table. Want that extra boost? First, make sure your food is rich in antioxidants. Vitamin C is especially potent at strengthening the immune system, so try to add fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruit, guavas and papayas to your diet. Probiotics that support a healthy gut can also aid in boosting the immune system. Therefore, foods like cultured yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables will be great additions to your table.
Be careful with diets
Dieting can weaken the body’s immune system. Researchers have found that even a slight weight-loss over some weeks can have an influence on how your body deals with viruses and bacteria. Therefore, if you plan to lose weight, you might want to do this at another time of year. If, however, you decide to reduce your calories, make sure that every one of them counts. This means ditching all junk food and getting your nutrition from high quality ingredients that give you adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.
How do you cope with the flu season? Do you have any special tips for staying healthy? Share them in the comments!