Cold and flu season is approaching. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, now is the time. And of course you know about washing your hands frequently and steering clear of people who are sick. But did you know that regular exercise, good nutrition, reducing stress, even getting enough sleep can help you prevent getting sick? It’s true, as I explain in my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.
Handwashing is among the most important things you can do to stop the spread of the flu and other viruses. You have probably been doing it wrong, so you may want to learn this song. Perfect timing, since today is Global Handwashing Day. You could probably learn a thing or two about drying your hands, too.
Getting enough sleep is a good idea. In fact, lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on your immune system, increasing the chance you will get sick. Another study showed that sleep following a vaccination enhanced the effectiveness of that vaccine.
Adequate nutrition is important for a healthy immune system. That said, there is no evidence that supplementing any particular nutrient will be beneficial unless, of course, there is a clear deficiency. In fact, one supplement company paid $23 million to settle a class action lawsuit regarding false claims that it prevented colds.
And that brings us to exercise. Regular moderate exercise enhances immune system function by stimulating immune cells but prolonged vigorous exercise can impair the immune system and increase the risk of infections, especially upper respiratory tract infections. Research also shows that exercise prior to a flu shot improves the immune response to the immunization.
If you remember nothing else from this article, go for a walk before your flu shot, then take a nap!