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Want to Stay Healthy This Winter? Follow These Four Steps


Why is it that some people seem to sail through cold and flu season without a sniffle, while others can count on always catching that winter cold/flu/virus?

Health magazine asked experts for the best, research-backed secrets for staying well. The article was aimed at mothers and grandmothers, but the advice applies to everyone.

The number one tip was to get the flu vaccine, but after that, they suggested following these four simple steps:

1. Breathe some fresh air. Yes, of course it's warmer inside, but that's also where all those other germy people are. Plus, that overheated office or home air dries out your nasal passages, making them more susceptible to germs settling in.

So bundle up and go for a stroll outside. A 2010  study showed that those who walked five days a week during winter had fewer illnesses than those who stayed indoors and were inactive. Not only is the air cleaner out there, but the activity will boost your immune system.

2. Stop stressing. Stress and the holiday season seem to go hand-in-hand, but all that commotion can increase your susceptibility to catching a cold, according to Ather Ali with the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Find time to relax, and be sure and get ample sleep and eat healthful foods. And don't forget -- a little daily exercise is a great stress-reliever.

3. Wash your hands. We can't say this enough: Germs are spread through touching, so wash those hands! A 2010 survey found that fewer than 40 percent of us wash our hands after coughing or sneezing, meaning we then spread those germs as we touch things.

Keep your hands away from your face (did you know we touch our face some 16 times an hour?) and lather up after being out and about in public. Be sure you dry your hands thoroughly, too. Damp hands are far more likely to spread bacteria than dry ones, Baltimore physician Dana Simpler told the magazine.

4. Get enough sleep. Sleep tends to get overlooked as a health booster, but it's actually extremely important to the functioning of your body's immune system. A 2009 Carnegie Mellon study found that anything short of seven hours nearly triples your odds of catching a cold.

So how do you improve the quality of your sleep? Not to keep harping on this, but physical activity really does help people sleep better. So does practicing some relaxation techniques right before bed like deep breathing, or slowly tensing and relaxing your muscles starting with your feet and working your way up. Then sleep your way to better health.


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