COVID-19 has forced us to re-think our lifestyle choices. From media consumption to working to social gatherings, we’ve had to change many aspects of our lives to stop this disease from spreading even further and to protect the most vulnerable in society.
We also need to make changes to boost our immune system. Experts say that even if an effective vaccine comes, we shouldn’t pin all our hopes on it. Our immune system is still our first line of defense against COVID-19.
Here are a few lifestyle choices we can make to help boost our immune system.
If you’ve already made a habit of exercising consistently for the past few years, keep going. Studies show that exercise improves both the immune and metabolic systems.
For those who live a more sedentary lifestyle, now is the time to start moving. A study shows that exercising at least five days a week reduced the risk of getting an upper respiratory infection by nearly 50% compared to those who live more of a sedentary lifestyle. Those who work out regularly also made symptoms less severe—by 32% to 41%—depending on the person’s physical fitness level.
If you’re only beginning your workout journey, start with 15 minutes a day then amp it up to 30 minutes per day every week. A study found that 30 to 60 minutes of brisk walking daily can improve your body’s defense against germs. So go for that walk or that run, wear your mask and keep a six-feet distance away from people.
Eat well and right.
Balanced nutrition is the foundation upon which we remain healthy and resist infection. Here are some dos and don’ts for choosing what to eat to improve your immune system:
- Do: Consume more foods rich with Vitamin C, like chili peppers, kale, broccoli, papayas, Brussels sprouts, lemons, and other citrus fruits.
- Do: Eat foods rich in Zinc include lean beef, oats, chickpeas, oysters, and cashews. Zinc and Vitamin C work best in conjunction with each other, so explore some recipes that assimilate both foods.
- Do: Incorporate more probiotics-rich and naturally fermented foods into your diet, like kombucha, yogurt, tempeh, miso, and kimchi.
- Don’t: Make unhealthy foods—like sodas, processed foods, alcohol, and other foods and drinks high in sugar—a regular part of your diet. There’s nothing wrong with indulging every once in a while, but don’t let them take the place of healthier options, like water, fruits, and vegetables.
- Don’t: Stop when you get tired of eating the same recipes all over again. Use it as an opportunity to learn to cook new meals and recipes. Consistency is key.
While taking some multivitamins is generally harmless, there is no scientific evidence to their effectiveness. Consult with your physician first if you want to take them. The best way to get our vitamins is still through the food we eat. Scour the web for healthy lifestyle food recipes to give your meals some flavor—eating healthily need not be dull.
Don’t neglect proper sleep.
Sleep and the immune system have been irrevocably linked since humanity began. Sleep not only reboots our body and mind, but it also reboots our immune system. One research shows that getting at least seven hours of sleep per night can make you four times less likely to catch a cold compared to only getting six hours of sleep per night.
Working from home has blurred the lines for many people—our house used to be a place of rest before it also became a place of work. That may cause restlessness and sleepless nights, and we need to take steps to ensure that we’re sleeping right. Fight for your sleeping time by doing the following:
- Proper diet and exercise help improve sleep.
- Limit your caffeine intake.
- Practice yoga or mindfulness.
- Find a comfortable mattress and pillow.
- Lower the room’s temperature.
- Stick to your schedule.
- Avoid taking naps during the day.
- Turn off your devices.
- Journal before bed.
- Light a candle or turn on a humidifier.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Read through a physical book or magazine.
- Expose your body to bright light during the day and use black-out curtains at night.
- Consult with your doctor about natural sleep-enhancing supplements.
While we may not altogether avoid being sick, not just with COVID-19 but with other kinds of flu viruses as well, there are things we can do to lower our risk. By boosting our immune system, we are doing everything within our power to protect our and others’ health.
We don’t know when COVID-19 will end, but experts agree that it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. When we incorporate these changes into our lifestyles, we can be assured that our bodies are at least somewhat prepared for what’s to come.