10 Steps for Staying Healthy This Winter

Sneak in exercise when you can, pack your own lunch and make time for mental health
Person working from home, sitting on an exercise ball.

During winter, chances are good that all you want to do is curl up on the couch under a blanket and watch TV. That’s completely understandable! The sun sets earlier, it’s cold and the great outdoors isn’t always fun when it’s snowing.

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How to combat winter health issues

It’s also understandable that your wellness and fitness goals might get off track, especially if you exercise outdoors during warmer months. But family medicine physician Neha Vyas, MD, reassures you that you do have options and can still make healthy choices even when it’s freezing.

Here, Dr. Vyas shares some easy tips to incorporate healthy decisions into your daily routine.

1. Get in extra steps

At work, park in the farthest spot and walk the extra steps to your office. (Unless it’s icy, then it’s best to put safety first and park as close as you can.) When you get to your building, take the stairs, not the elevator. If you work in a high-rise, stop the elevator a few flights before your floor and walk up the rest of the way. Set a goal of how many flights you want to accomplish, and then walk an extra floor every week.

2. Keep moving

If you work at a desk all day, take periodic breaks for a mini-workout. Try chair yoga or keep resistance bands and light weights near your cubicle or desk. Studies show that even 10 minutes of physical activity, such as chair yoga or lifting light weights a few times a day, can have positive health benefits. At a minimum, stand up and stretch every hour while working at your computer.

3. Winterproof your workout

These days, there’s no shortage of online workouts, videos and apps that allow you to work up a sweat from the comfort of your home. The internet is full of free workout videos, while yoga or Zumba® instructors do classes for a fee. Test out a few workouts to find a series, program or instructor that you like.

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You can also swap outdoor activities for indoor ones. For example, buy an exercise bike and go cycling while watching your favorite TV show or reading a book.

4. Swap your chair for a fitness ball, and get a standing desk

If these aren’t options for you, innovate! You can do a DIY standing desk by stacking several discarded corrugated boxes placed on top of each other to achieve the right height for a computer screen, and other boxes for your keyboard and mouse. Or use books to raise your computer to a higher level.

5. Make your lunch — don’t get take-out

Making lunch at home tends to be much healthier (and cost-effective) than grabbing food from a restaurant or vendor. When you choose the items in advance, you think more about what you’re putting in your body. And you can use the extra time you gained during your lunch break to go for a brisk walk instead. Plus, it’s fun to plan ahead and decide what meals you’re going to make in a given week.

6. Drink water

Choose water instead of a soda, or infuse your water with fruit or citrus for a unique flavor. When it’s cold outside and you want to drink something hot, consider herbal tea instead of hot chocolate.

7. Disinfect your surfaces

Every week or so, run a disinfectant cloth over your keyboard, mouse and phone earpiece to prevent the spread of germs. And be sure to wash your hands frequently.

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8. Get a flu vaccine

Getting the flu vaccine will benefit everyone around you and, most importantly, yourself. Getting vaccinated builds herd immunity; the more people who receive the flu vaccine, the more of those who can’t receive it for health reasons will benefit.

9. Stress less

Learn the art of deep breathing. Take a few moments to step away from the computer or device screen and practice reflective meditation. The more you practice this, the quicker you can call upon these skills to help remain calm during stressful days, poor driving conditions or other winter challenges.

10. Do a digital detox

Every so often, take a complete break from your devices — a digital detox. That means step away from your cell phone, tablet, computer and even TV. Read a book, play a game, have a conversation with your roommates or partner — and generally try and go analog for a while. You might be surprised at how much calmer you might feel.

Above all, don’t forget to get enough sleep and make time for meditation and self-reflection at the end of each day. These tips will get you through the dark days of winter and looking forward to a bright, healthy spring.

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