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Surviving Cold and Flu Season: 4 Healthy Habits to Stay Well

As the leaves change color and the temperature begins to drop, we enter the time of year when cold and flu viruses seem to lurk around every corner. While you may be well-versed in the basics of sneezing etiquette, your everyday habits can also play a significant role in helping to prevent seasonal illnesses.                                                       

In the blog post below, Kevin Campion, PTof Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin Greenfield Physical Therapy, describes his top tips to not only survive but thrive during the cold and flu season. From bolstering your immune system to maintaining good respiratory health, these habits are your best defense against the sniffles, coughs, and sneezes that accompany the change in seasons.   

4 Tips to Prevent Cold and Flu  

1. Wash Your Hands Frequently  

Keeping your hands clean is the best way to remove germs and limit the chance of passing them around as you touch your face or encounter other people. Most colds are caused by viruses, such as rhinoviruses. These viruses can be easily transmitted from person to person through contact with contaminated surfaces or by direct contact with an infected person. When you touch your face, especially your eyes, nose, or mouth, after coming into contact with these viruses, you can introduce the virus into your body. Proper handwashing helps remove these viruses from your hands, reducing the risk of transmission.  

In addition to protecting yourself, handwashing helps prevent you from spreading the virus to others. If you have a cold, regularly washing your hands can prevent you from contaminating surfaces or transmitting the virus to others through physical contact.  

2. Eat an Immune Boosting Diet  

Your diet is vital in keeping your immune system working well and fighting potential colds. A good diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber to provide the body with the nutrients and vitamins the body needs to keep functioning optimally. Shop for foods that cover the colors of the rainbow in the produce section. Keep a limit on processed foods you are eating to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.   

 3. Focus on Good Sleep  

During sleep, many of the body’s systems repair and reset. Plus, sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Long-term lack of sleep decreases the activity of the antibodies that fight off infections. Adults should aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Consistent and quality sleep also supports your overall well-being and reduces your risk for other health disorders related to a chronic lack of sleep.  

 4. Exercise Regularly   

Exercise, while not only helping build strong bones and muscles, can help your immune system fight off infection. Regular activity helps to increase blood flow. Increased blood flow helps to move immune cells all over the body, giving them a greater chance to find and fight off infectious cells. Muscle contractions also increase immune cell activity and stimulate the chemicals in the body that help increase white blood cells (the cells that fight infection).  

Exercise also has been shown to lower chronic stress and inflammation in the body which is often related to poorer immune function. Risk factors for a more severe infection and related complications include obesity, diabetes, and heart and cardiovascular disease. Exercise helps control these risk factors, leading to better overall health.   

It doesn’t take much to start moving! Try starting with a short walk around the neighborhood. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, aim for around 10,000 steps per day. You likely already have a step counter on your watch, phone, or fitness device. Do a short walk several times throughout the day. Make a plan to work up to 30 minutes of movement five times per week. Scheduling time for exercise, or putting reminder prompts on your phone an help you to increase your activity. 

Want to exercise but feel limited by a nagging injury or painful movement? See one of our skilled physical therapists to address the issue so you can take advantage of all the benefits of exercise. To make an appointment, go online or call (414) 961-6800.   

Find an OHOW physical therapy clinic conveniently located near you! Visit https://www.ohow.com/locations/ for more information. 

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