Fitness for health

Beat the cold


Did you know that regular moderate exercise will cut down the number of colds you get by strengthening your immune system. Don’t underestimate the importance of regular activity, especially in winter. Apart from keeping our circulation going, regular moderate exercise increases the number of natural killer cells in our bodies. These lymphocytes in the bloodstream and the mucosal layer of the nose and airways travel around our bodies scavenging foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. When you exercise, natural killer cell levels go up and stay elevated for about 36 hours afterwards. In one study women who walked for 30 minutes a day caught half the number of colds as those who didn’t exercise. Get talking to your personal trainer who can design an exercise programme that’s just right for you. This is just one way to ward off those colds this winter.

A study reported that adults who sleep less than five hours a night were four times more likely to catch colds than those who slept for seven or more hours.

Stress also had a negative effect on your immune system, again making you more susceptible to colds, the stress hormones lower the production of white blood cells. Try to have more time to yourself and do some workout and exercise to get rid of the stress you might have at work or at home. A study showed that mindfulness meditation reduced the incidence of a cold be 35 – 60%.

Apparently shivering depresses the immune system and again makes us more likely to catch cold. So wrap up when you go out in the cold and don’t forget the hat as we lose 30% of our body heat through our heads. Also, lower levels of sunlight and altered levels of hormones such as melatonin and serotonin negatively affect how the immune system performs.

There are particular foods that are very helpful to prevent a cold. Mushrooms have immune-upping characteristics and help the body be prepared against infections. Fish such as tuna and salmon are a good recipe to avoid getting a cold, tuna having a source of selenium which protects cells and boosts the immune system and salmon is really rich in proteins and a great source of omega-3 fatty acid which activates the cells. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and carbohydrates which are great to improve cell functioning because they contain antioxidants. By eating live yoghurts daily, we are boosting the immunity enhancing bacteria in our gut and a study showed that probiotics shortened the duration of a cold and made the symptoms less severe.

People become infected by picking up the virus on their hands from contaminated objects, such as doors handles and then touching vulnerable parts like eyes, nose or mouth. So ensure you wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, or use antibacterial gel if you cannot wash them.

Because people are much closer together physically during winter, this makes it easier for infections to pass between people. Crowded areas with little ventilation, department stores bustling with shoppers, and people gathering for parties all make catching a cold more likely. Central heating reduces our defences and affects the respiratory system by drying out the protective mucous in our nasal passages. The dry, stuffy air of central heating can also lead to sore throats and aggravate chest complaints like asthma. A humidifier can help.

Garlic’s active ingredient, allicin, is a powerful infection fighter and in a British study garlic takers had fewer colds, took fewer sick days and recovered faster.

If you do catch a cold, make sure you use tissues then throw them away. Around 19,500 viruses are expelled in a single cough, so don’t spread it, and wash your hands.

Green tea is said to be beneficial when you’re suffering, it is rich in antioxidants, just inhaling the steam can help to ease breathing. Fruits and vegetables also contain also a lot of antioxidants which are important for cell repair and, therefore, to strengthen the immune system.

If you have a cold, being dehydrated makes your mucus drier and thicker and less able to cope against invading bacteria and viruses, drinking plenty of fluids will help flush out the infection.
Doctors recommend we drink about eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy, water helps the kidneys function properly and flushes out the toxins that accumulate in our bodies.

Try doing some of these things and maybe you’ll ward off all those unwelcome and inconvenient cold this winter.

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