Tag Archives: health and wellness

10 Summer Salads to Keep You Cool and Satisfied

When it’s hot outside, having a heavy, hot meal doesn’t always sound appealing. Salads can be a refreshing, filling, and nutritious choice for lunch or dinner on sweltering summer days. There are so many delicious options for salads that go beyond basic iceberg lettuce!

Below you will find recipes for fresh summer salads that take advantage of seasonal vegetables and fruits and are easy to make. Serve salads as a side to your main dish or add a protein such as grilled chicken, shrimp, tofu, or steak to any salad to make it a main course.

Tomato, Peach, and Basil Salad
Use seasonal peaches and nectarines combined with feta cheese to create a sweet and savory salad.

Charred Shrimp and Avocado Salad
This light salad has a tropical taste with pineapple, shrimp, and avocado mixed with cucumber and watercress.

New Greek Salad
A twist on the traditional summer salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and feta cheese, combined with Kalamata olives and croutons made from olive bread.

Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken
Another summer favorite, this Cobb salad includes avocado, tomatoes, feta cheese, and crumbled bacon. Add grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken for an even quicker meal.

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Steak and Tomatoes
Watermelon is a summer staple that when grilled with steak creates a juicy flavor and satisfying meal.

Arugula, Melon, and Prosciutto Salad
A sweet and salty salad with cantaloupe, arugula, and prosciutto served with a red wine vinaigrette.

Grilled Chicken Mango Salad
Grilled chicken is cooked in mango cilantro dressing and combined with avocado, cucumbers, peppers, and romaine lettuce—finished off by more mango cilantro dressing.

Garbanzo Bean Salad with Dill Dressing
Protein from chickpeas and fiber-rich beans and veggies make this salad a filling meal.

Strawberry Summer Salad
A refreshing blend of spinach, strawberries, sliced red onion, chopped nuts, and feta drizzled with strawberry vinaigrette dressing.

Summer Caprese Salad
This summer classic is made with fresh summer tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil seasoned with olive oil.

Taking Vacation Time Is More Important Now Than Ever

Americans work more than any other nation, take fewer vacation days, work longer hours, and retire at a later age. Many people feel that they cannot take time off and get their jobs done, or they have fears about job security. However, studies have shown that taking a vacation has much-needed physical and mental health benefits and that taking time off from work has never been more important than right now during the global coronavirus pandemic that has added even more stress to already over-taxed employees.

Business closures due to the pandemic have resulted in wage cuts and job losses for many workers. Many people are still working from home or furloughed. As a result, taking a week off or even a day off may seem like a huge burden to employees when the pressure to perform already feels greater, and vacation doesn’t seem like a priority. But taking care of your mental health during such stressful and uncertain times matters now more than ever.

Preventing burnout
Vacation time, and even time off on weekends, is crucial for employees to maintain productivity, creativity, and prevent burnout, according to Simmy Grover, an organizational psychology instructor at University College London.

Burnout is inevitable if you never take a break from work, and that means not only taking vacation days but also mentally detaching from work on the weekend and during evenings at home. Taking time off should be viewed as a time to recharge and de-stress in order to be a better employee, make better decisions, and be more productive at work. Time off will allow you to manage your stress and maintain a sense of well-being.

Vacation during the pandemic
Like most everything else, your vacation plans may have been canceled due to the pandemic. Even if you can’t take that European trip or visit Disney World, time away from work is so important right now, even if you just stay at home. Experts say the benefits of being away from work are basically the same whether you leave town or not.

You may not be able to go to many places right now, or you may not feel safe about going anywhere, but research into “staycations” shows that they have the same mental health benefits that destination vacations have.

Safe vacation ideas
If you do crave time away from home, there are some safe ways to take a vacation during the ongoing pandemic. Many people are staying closer to home and avoiding air travel, so consider exploring areas in your state that are within driving distance. A beach, lake, or mountain getaway can provide a much-needed change of scenery, and if you forgo staying at a hotel and opt for a private home rental, you can get away safely and engage in activities that still maintain social distance.

Being outdoors (while still socially distanced from others) is one of the safest places to be right now, so look into ways you can get away and participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, cycling, or even just lying on an uncrowded beach. Camping is another great option that is naturally socially distanced; just be sure to check with campgrounds on what facilities are open and whether they have any restrictions.

Pack your own food, and plan to cook and eat at your rental or get takeout from local restaurants instead of dining out. Minimize your family’s risk of infection by following all of the recommended guidelines including washing your hands frequently, cleaning surfaces often, maintaining social distance from others, and wearing a mask when in public. If you follow all of these recommendations, you and your family can still have a memorable vacation, and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to get back to work when you return.

If getting away is not an option for you, taking a day off or even a week off to just stay at home and recharge will only help your mental health in dealing with work stress and the strain of the pandemic.

 

Lower Back Pain and Exercise

Easing Lower Back Pain Through Exercise

If you suffer from lower back pain, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), nearly 80 percent of Americans will experience some level of lower back pain at some time in their lives. It is the most common reason for doctor visits and for job-related disability. Lower back pain is usually caused by injury, although some back pain can be caused by certain diseases such as arthritis, a ruptured or herniated disc, or more rarely, cancer.

Lower back pain can be either acute, meaning it lasts a few days to weeks, or chronic, lasting longer than three months. It’s important to see a doctor for any new back pain to rule out underlying disease. If your lower back pain is the result of an injury, the best way to keep your symptoms under control is by staying active. Regular exercise can help the muscles in your back relax and can increase blood flow to the area.

When exercising after a mild back injury or with chronic back pain, there are some important things to keep in mind so you don’t make your symptoms worse.

Get out of bed.
When your back hurts, it’s tempting to just lie in bed and watch television. While resting for a day or two is fine, any longer will make your pain worse, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The sooner you get up and moving, the quicker you will feel some relief. Start slowly, with simple activities such as a 10-15 minute walk two times a day.

Stretch the right way.
Performing the right types of stretches and doing them correctly can really help calm lower back spasms. Do the exercises recommended here two times per day to help relieve back pain and strengthen back muscles. Click here to find eight back stretches.

Don’t push through the pain.
If certain exercises are making your back pain worse, stop doing them. Pushing into a painful position can damage tissue further and make back pain worse.

Check your posture.
Regularly slumping or slouching, especially while sitting for long periods of time, such as at an office desk, is a common reason for lower back pain. Focus on sitting and standing up straight, and make sure your desk chair is ergonomically built to support your back while working. Also, wearing high heels can exacerbate the problem as can being overweight or obese.

Avoid high-impact activities.
Running, high-impact aerobics, basketball, and other activities that place a lot of stress on your joints can make back pain worse. Avoid these types of activities until your pain gets better. Instead, focus on lower impact exercises such as walking or riding the stationary bike or elliptical machine. Swimming and aquatic exercise are also especially helpful when dealing with lower back pain.

Be careful with weight lifting.
When you’re experiencing back pain, avoid doing overhead weight moves such as shoulder presses and weighted squats. These types of weight movements can add pressure to your spinal discs and cause back pain to worsen.

Once you make these changes to your exercise routine, your lower back pain should start to improve significantly. If it does not, you should consult your doctor.

 

 

Start Your Day with a Powerful Breakfast

The importance of Breakfast Nutrition

You’ve probably heard the mantra – breakfast is the most important meal of the day! But what exactly does that mean? What are the healthiest foods to eat for breakfast?

Eating a healthy breakfast is the best way to start your day. A good breakfast will help you think and perform better at your job or at school and can help you maintain a healthy weight and promote heart health.

Don’t Skip!
Many people skip breakfast, either because they aren’t hungry in the morning, feel like they’re too pressed for time, or as a way to lose weight. But studies show that breakfast skippers are not only sabotaging weight loss attempts, but they may also be impacting their body’s ability to control blood sugar as well as affecting their quality of sleep.

What’s for breakfast?
Getting into the habit of eating breakfast is important, but equally important is what you eat for breakfast. Grabbing a protein bar or shake is better than nothing, but highly processed foods like these are not the best choices for your first meal of the day. Eating a balanced breakfast that’s packed full of protein and nutrients will give you the most health benefits.

When planning your meals, focus on pairing carbohydrates with proteins for breakfast. Carbohydrates will fuel your brain and supply your body with the energy it needs to begin the day. Protein will help you feel full and satisfied until lunchtime.

A breakfast that’s high in protein has also been shown to support weight loss by increasing muscle mass, helping regulate blood sugar, helping you feel full longer, and curbing the urge to snack at night. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein at breakfast; this can be accomplished with an 8 oz. cup of Greek yogurt or one egg with a couple of turkey sausage links, for example.

Protein-packed breakfast ideas
Skip the donuts and danishes, and try some of these ideas for a healthier breakfast that pairs the right amount of proteins and carbs.

  • Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
  • Steel-cut oatmeal with berries and 6 oz. Greek yogurt
  • Avocado toast with egg
  • Whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp. of nut butter and sliced banana
  • Berry and yogurt smoothie
  • Peanut butter and banana smoothie
  • Whole wheat English muffin with egg and low-fat cheese
  • Sausage and egg casserole with a side of fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and topped with berries and almonds
  • Egg scramble with turkey sausage, low-fat cheese, and veggies with a side of berries

 

Your Sunscreen Questions Answered

Summertime has arrived and with more time spent outdoors, you’ll want to make sure to use a good sunscreen to protect your skin. Unlike the 1970s and 1980s when tanning oils and the bronzed look were all the rage, we now know that using sunscreen is essential to preventing not only sunburn but long-term damage from the sun—including skin cancer.

While most people adhere to this advice and aren’t breaking out the baby oil to get a deep, dark tan, they still have misconceptions when it comes to sun protection. What SPF is best? How much sunscreen do I need? How often should I reapply? If I tan well, do I really need sunscreen?

Below are answers to some of the most common questions about sunscreen:

Are higher SPFs better?
Sunscreens are available with SPFs (sun protection factors) ranging from SPF 4 to SPF 100+. Most people mistakenly think that the higher the SPF, the more sun protection the product offers, but that is not necessarily true.

Dermatologists recommend that everyone use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. SPF 30 blocks approximately 97 percent of UVB rays, which are the ones that cause skin cancer. For products with anything higher than a SPF 30, the difference in sun protection is minimal. No sunscreen can can offer 100 percent protection from UVB rays, and products with higher SPFs often contain more chemical ingredients that can irritate the skin. And sunscreens with higher SPFs are often more expensive.

Which sunscreen is best?
There are so many different brands and different types of sunscreens available, it would be hard to choose the best one. A lot depends on your personal preferences—whether you prefer a lotion, spray, or cream, or whether you want a chemical versus a physical sunscreen, and your preference for a specific fragrance or no fragrance at all, etc.

Whatever sunscreen you choose, always make sure it is at least SPF 30 and is labeled “broad spectrum.” Broad spectrum sunscreens protect the skin against both UVA and UVB rays; that is, they protect against both the UVA rays that can cause premature skin aging, wrinkles, and age spots and the UVB rays that cause sunburn, which over time, can lead to skin cancer.

How often do I need to reapply sunscreen?
How many times have you gotten to the beach or the pool and applied your sunscreen, and then spent the day swimming and playing in the sun—forgetting to reapply and ending up with red, sore sunburned skin later that evening? One of the biggest mistakes that many people make is not reapplying their sunscreen either at all or often enough.

All sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every two hours while outdoors. If you will be spending a lot of time in the water or if you are sweating a lot, such as when exercising outdoors, then you should reapply more often. Even if a product is labeled “water-resistant,” it still needs to be reapplied at least every two hours—no sunscreen is completely water-proof.

How much sunscreen do I need?
If you use too little sunscreen, you may end up with a painful sunburn. Dermatologists recommend using enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass (about two tablespoons) to cover all exposed areas of the body and face. If you prefer to use a spray, always make sure to rub in the sunscreen after spraying it on your skin to get even coverage.

It’s cloudy, do I really need to wear sunscreen?
Yes, you do! Don’t skimp on the sunscreen on overcast days. The sun’s UV rays can easily pass through clouds, and you can still get a sunburn.

My skin tans well, do I still have to use sunscreen?
All dermatologists will tell you that there is no such thing as a healthy or safe tan. A tan is a sign that skin damage has already occurred, and it does not offer any protection against future sun exposure. A so-called “base tan” only provides the equivalent of about a SPF 4, so a tan will not protect against sunburn or skin cancer.

Whether a tan is from an indoor tanning bed or from the sun, tanning causes skin damage over time. This damage may not only lead to premature skin aging and more wrinkles, it can also lead to skin cancer.

Exercising Safely with Asthma

May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Since spring is the prime season for allergy and asthma sufferers, it is the best time to educate others about these conditions.

In the US, 25 million children and adults have asthma, and approximately 21 million people suffer from seasonal allergies. Additionally, about 31 million people have some type of food allergy. While both allergies and asthma are common conditions, there are several special measures people with these conditions should take as many factors can trigger symptoms that range from bothersome to life-threatening.

When it comes to exercise, people with asthma must take special precautions, as exercise in and of itself can trigger asthma attacks. People with asthma may experience trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing, or tightness in the chest during or following any physical activity. But exercise is actually beneficial for asthma sufferers, and most people with asthma can exercise safely with proper precautions and the right treatments.

Taking precautions
For those with asthma, many factors in the environment can trigger symptoms, so it is important for sufferers to learn their individual triggers. For example, exercising in very cold or very hot temperatures, dry air, air pollution, and allergens such as pollen or ragweed can all set off symptoms or a full-blown asthma attack. Most doctors recommend that people with asthma exercise in warmer temperatures because moist, warm air is better for keeping the airways lubricated and relaxed.

However, if exercising outdoors in colder temperatures, wearing a face mask that covers your mouth and nose can help keep symptoms at bay. If allergens like pollen trigger symptoms, check your area’s pollen counts before heading outdoors to exercise, and switch to indoor activity on days when pollen counts are particularly high. For those with asthma, many factors in the environment can trigger symptoms, so it is important for sufferers to learn about their individual triggers.

In general, people with asthma should be careful not to overexert themselves during physical activities. If you experience asthma symptoms, you should stop exercising.

Best types of exercise
Some types of exercise and sports are more likely to cause asthma symptoms than others. Activities that require constant exertion such as soccer, hockey, or basketball are more of a problem than sports like tennis or baseball which require short bursts of physical exertion.

Good choices for exercise or sports for people with asthma include swimming, walking, hiking, yoga, golf, weightlifting, and using indoor equipment such as elliptical machines or stationary bikes. Swimming can be particularly beneficial for asthma sufferers because a swimmer’s position horizontally in the water can help loosen mucus in the lungs, and breathing in warm, moist air is also good for reducing symptoms. Yoga is also a great choice as it focuses on breathing and can help increase lung capacity by strengthening muscles.

Whatever activity you choose, it’s important to build up your endurance over time and do it regularly.  It’s also important to use your inhaler or any other medications your doctor has prescribed to help control your asthma before or during exercise. Always make sure to have your inhaler with you or close by when exercising should you begin experiencing an asthma attack.

Exercise-induced asthma
Another special consideration is a condition known as exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). People without diagnosed chronic asthma can experience asthma symptoms that are triggered by exercise. With this condition, airways in the lungs can narrow with strenuous exercise and cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and poor athletic performance during or after exercise.

Usually in EIB, symptoms begin soon after beginning exercise and can last 60 minutes or longer if not treated. It’s important to see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during or after exercising, as EIB can start at any age. Just as with chronic asthma, many different environmental factors can trigger EIB symptoms including dry air, cold temperatures, allergens, or air pollution. EIB is more common with activities that require long periods of deep breathing such as running or soccer.

EIB can usually be managed effectively, and sufferers can continue participating in sports or exercise by taking medication before exercise to prevent or reduce symptoms. Most people are prescribed an inhaler containing medications that can be used approximately 15 minutes before exercise to control symptoms. These medications can also be used during exercise if symptoms arise.

 

Refueling Your Body Post-Workout

You’ve been pushing yourself in your weekly workouts, trying to reach your personal goals whether it’s to increase fitness or build muscle. Most likely, you’ve been careful about what you eat before you exercise, but what you eat after a vigorous workout is just as important. The right nutrition can replenish energy stores, build and repair muscle that was broken down during a workout, and help keep your metabolism strong.

When refueling after a workout, the sooner the better. Research shows that if you wait to eat for two hours after your workout, it decreases your body’s ability to refill muscle stores by 50 percent compared to eating right away after exercising. It’s best to eat or drink something that combines protein and carbohydrates 30 minutes to one hour after exercising.

Studies have shown that consuming carbohydrates immediately after exercise is an excellent strategy to maximize rates of muscle glycogen synthesis, which means restoring energy to muscle cells. Similarly, eating additional protein within an hour after a workout is also shown to improve muscle glycogen stores. Drinking plenty of water, or sometimes a sports recovery drink after very strenuous workouts, is also necessary for rehydration.

Post-workout meals don’t have to be complicated nor do they require special supplements or expensive shakes. It just takes a little planning and preparation so you have a meal ready to go after your workout. For example, if you work out at a gym, you may want to pack a pre-made meal to take along with you, such as a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.

These examples of post-workout foods combine the necessary carbohydrates and protein and are quick and easy to make:

  • Grilled chicken (4 oz.) and brown rice (½ cup)
  • Egg scramble made with eggs and vegetables such as sweet potatoes or avocado
  • Peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich made on whole grain bread with all-fruit preserves
  • Whole grain wrap with lean meat, beans, avocado, or cheese
  • Whole wheat toast with 3 oz. of tuna and 2 oz. of hummus and spinach
  • Protein shake made with half a banana, one scoop of protein powder, and almond milk
  • Chocolate milk (1 cup)

 

How Diet Affects Menopause

If you’re a woman of a certain age, you may already be feeling some of the symptoms of hormonal changes, even if you haven’t officially gone through menopause yet. The time leading up to menopause is a transition known as perimenopause and can start anywhere from a woman’s late 30s to mid-40s. This stage can last from five to ten years until you go through actual menopause. Menopause is defined as the absence of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

As a woman goes through the hormonal changes of perimenopause and menopause, she may experience some unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, insomnia, and irregular periods. Women may also gain weight or find that they cannot lose weight as easily as when they were younger.

Menopause also occurs at a time in a woman’s life when her metabolism is already slowing down as a normal part of aging, so this tendency to gain weight is a bit of a double whammy. As if this were not enough, women are at a higher risk for diseases including osteoporosis, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes after menopause.

But the news is not all bad! There are lifestyle changes you can make to ease the symptoms of menopause, prevent weight gain, and reduce your risk for developing certain diseases. One of the key ways to do all of this is through diet and nutrition.

1. Increase Your Intake of calcium and vitamin D.
The loss of estrogen that comes along with menopause can weaken bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Both calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients that protect your bones, so eating foods rich in these nutrients daily can help lower your risk of osteoporosis. You can get adequate calcium from dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as from green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens. There are also lots of calcium-fortified foods such as cereal and juices that can boost your calcium intake as well.

Vitamin D is equally important,  and the best way to get enough is by spending a short time outdoors daily to get natural vitamin D from the sun. If you don’t spend much time outdoors or have had skin cancer or are at a high risk for skin cancer, you can also talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplementation. It’s also found in oily fish, eggs, and foods such as milk or juice that are fortified with vitamin D.

2. Maintain a healthy weight.
Weight gain is common during both perimenopause and menopause, and women tend to gain excess body fat around their waists, which increases the risks for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Women who are heavier also tend to experience worse menopausal symptoms. One study found that women who lost at least 10 lbs. or 10 percent of their body weight over the course of a year were more likely to eliminate hot flashes and night sweats.

3. Eat your veggies and fruits.
A diet rich in varied fruits and vegetables has been shown to prevent a number of menopausal symptoms. Additionally, fruits and vegetables fill you up and keep you from overeating more unhealthy foods, which can lead to weight gain. They may also help prevent diseases, particularly heart disease (which can be a higher risk after menopause), and help maintain bone health.

4. Avoid trigger foods.
There are certain foods that can trigger hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, especially if eaten at night. Caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods, and spicy foods seem to be the biggest trigger foods for worsening menopausal symptoms.

5. Eat enough protein.
Getting enough protein in your diet can help prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that occurs with age. Focus on lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy foods.

In addition to eating a healthy diet, regular exercise can help ease menopausal symptoms and help maintain a healthy weight.

How to Protect Your Health During the COVID-19 Crisis

Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is something most of us have not experienced in our lifetimes. The disruptions to our daily lives that have happened over the past week, and which will likely continue to happen for weeks to come, are difficult and challenging for everyone. These changes impact every aspect of our lives from our financial stability to our health, our children, our aging parents, and more.

While this shutdown of life-as-we-know-it is going to be challenging, it is necessary to do our part in helping to control the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. Closures of schools, colleges, restaurants, and other establishments may seem extreme, but experts are telling us they are crucial right now to try and “flatten the curve” of this viral outbreak. “Flattening the curve” is the idea of slowing a virus’ spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at the same time.

This is why the U.S. and many other countries are implementing “social distancing” guidelines that limit the number of people going out in public and large group gatherings. The “curve” researchers are talking about refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time. The goal with social distancing is to prevent a sharp rise in the number of people with the virus so the nation’s healthcare systems do not become overloaded beyond their capacity to treat people, as is currently happening with devastating results in Italy.

More than likely, you are already experiencing the effects of closures and social distancing. That may mean your children’s schools are closed or your company is having employees work from home for a few weeks, or both. Most of us are accepting staying at home for the time being as the new norm. This means not going out to eat, not visiting movie theatres, the gym, or other public places, and no playdates or other gatherings.

Protect your mental health
Just as important as protecting your physical health during this pandemic is protecting your mental health. Uncertain times such those we are experiencing right now can have a significant impact on your mental health. You are likely to feel stress surrounding what these shutdowns will mean financially for you and your family, what it will mean for your children’s education, and for your parents and other elderly family members’ health. All of this uncertainty can increase anxiety, and if you already suffer from anxiety and depression, it can make it much worse.

Some tips to ease stress and anxiety during this national crisis and help protect your mental health include the following:

Limit reading or watching repetitive coverage of the virus on various media. It will only make you more anxious. Stay informed by designating just one hour a day to read updates from trusted news sources—social media is notorious for spreading false information. An overload of information and the 24/7 news cycle will only increase your anxiety during these uncertain times.

Focus on the things you enjoy at home.  Replace social media and news with reading books, watching movies or shows, or listening to podcasts that entertain you and uplift you.

Maintain relationships, but do so virtually.
Since you can’t visit with elderly family members right now or with other friends, make time to engage in video chats, phone calls, emails, and texts. You and your kids can plan weekly video chats to stay connected with friends and to check in on elderly relatives. 

Add structure to your day.
Having a schedule will give you a feeling of control, which is important right now. Kids will benefit from having a daily schedule since it will help them to focus on things they need to do and will help to divert them from thinking about the virus. This is especially important if you will be working from home, and/or if your children will be participating in online learning during this time.

Create a plan for yourself and your family. Keep a list and use it; include needed supplies like food and medications, as well as contacts for your doctors and other important numbers. Using a list will give you a feeling of control in this unpredictable situation.

Practice self-care. Get back to the basics—get enough sleep, eat well, practice good hygiene, and get some exercise. You can work out at home, or better yet, get some fresh air by going for a walk, a run, or a bike ride in your neighborhood while still maintaining social distance. Experts agree that the best thing we can do during this health crisis is to take care of ourselves.

Remember to breathe. If you feel yourself starting to tense up and become anxious about this pandemic, take a time-out and practice deep-breathing exercises.

“Maintaining balance in daily life and not letting your day be consumed by the ‘next headline’ is important to maintaining perspective in the uncertainty of daily life,” said Nathaniel Van Kirk, PhD., coordinator of inpatient group therapy at McLean Harvard Medical School and the coordinator of clinical assessment at McLean’s OCD Institute.

 

Does Exercise Help Fight Off Colds and Flu?

Help Prevent Colds and Flu with Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is good for our bodies and well-being, but research also shows that regular, moderate exercise can also help our bodies fight off germs during cold and flu season. The key, though, is the word moderate—in contrast, more intense exercise and endurance training have been shown to have the opposite effect on the immune system.

Moderate Exercise Boosts Immunity
A research study found that staying active decreased the odds of catching a cold by nearly half, and even for those who exercised regularly and still caught a cold, the infection and symptoms were less severe. Lead researcher Dr. David Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and a former president of the International Society of Exercise Immunology says, “Bouts of exercise spark a temporary rise in immune system cells circulating around the body that can attack foreign invaders.”

Research shows moderate amounts of aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, or cycling during peak cold and flu months help boost the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria. Moderate exercise is considered to be 30 minutes, four to five times per week.

But in people who engage in prolonged exercise, such as marathon running, research has shown it can suppress certain parts of the immune system. Those who engage in fitness exercise seem to have better resistance to colds and viruses than those who participate in more intense endurance training. For example, athletes running 60 miles a week have double the odds of sickness, compared to those who run less. Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session.

Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?
If you’re feeling under the weather, you may not feel like exercising at all, but if you are a regular exerciser or are training for a 5K, for example, you may feel like missing your workout will put you behind.

Deciding whether or not to exercise when you are sick depends on certain factors. According to David Pyne, a sports scientist, and researcher with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at the University of Canberra, athletes do what’s known as the “neck check” when determining if they should continue with regular training or rest for a few days when sick.

The “neck check” means that if your symptoms are from the neck up and not too severe—such as a runny nose or sore throat, and you don’t have a fever—then moderate exercise won’t make you worse and actually might be beneficial.

However, if your symptoms are more severe and are below the neck, like chest congestion or muscle or joint aches, or you’re running a fever, you should avoid exercise until your symptoms subside. Exercising with more severe cold or flu symptoms can prolong your illness and make you feel worse.

After a bout with the common cold, once symptoms have resolved, you can safely resume your regular exercise routine. But if you’ve had more severe illness or the flu, it’s important that you return to exercising gradually. Ease back into your routine with light exercise on the first day or two after an illness, and gradually work back up to your normal routine.

Keep the Germs Away
In addition to regular moderate exercise, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent colds and flu:

  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Get a flu vaccine annually.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently.
  • Wipe down counters and other surfaces (phones, remotes, doorknobs, light switches, etc.) with a strong cleaner.
  • Keep your hands out of your mouth, ears, nose, and eyes.
  • Stay home if you’re sick!