Leading a healthy lifestyle is important all year round. As winter sets in, most of us would prefer to hunker down inside and indulge in hearty, warming comfort food. As the temperature drops and the days get shorter, it’s harder to stay motivated and stick to a healthy routine. And that’s before all the temptations of the festive season.

This year, Covid-19 poses new challenges to our winter health. Cases are likely to continue to rise over the colder months, along with more common winter ailments like the flu. And with increasing lockdown restrictions, what can already be a lonely time of year may be even more difficult.  So it’s more important than ever to support your immune system and protect your mental wellbeing.

The good news is there are plenty of practical things you can do to bolster your physical and emotional health over the coming months. Here are our top tips.

1. Rise and shine

When it’s cold and dark outside it’s tempting to hibernate under the duvet for as long as possible. But sticking to a regular sleep routine i.e. getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time each day helps improve the quality of your sleep. Why is that important? Well, while you’re asleep, your body releases cytokines which help fight off infections and your tissues heal and repair.

2. Eat colourful fruit and veg

Give your body the nutrients it needs to build up your immune system. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or swiss chard and orange produce such as squash, carrots or oranges are jam-packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Iron.

You might also want to consider taking Vitamin D supplements while daylight hours are shorter.

3. Choose decaf

Between pumpkin spice lattes and warming mugs of tea our intake of hot caffeinated drinks tends to skyrocket at this time of year. Hot drinks are definitely recommended to help you stay warm, but high caffeine levels can affect your mood and emotions, causing higher levels of anxiety. Opt for herbal teas or hot water with lemon and honey for a healthier alternative.

4. Keep moving

There are plenty of exercises, gentle stretches and balance strengthening movements you can practice in the warmth and comfort of your own home when it’s difficult to get outside. Get started with our free online course Eat and exercise for energy or try our 8 ways to exercise at home.

5. Get a booster

If you’re based in the UK and you’re pregnant, receive carers allowance or aged 65+, you’re entitled to a free flu jab on the NHS. This year people who care for or live with someone who was asked to shield during the spring Covid-19 lockdown will also be able to get a free booster.

Bonus Tip: When you get your flu jab, check whether you’re eligible for the pneumo vaccine which helps protect you from pneumonia.

6. Heat your home

Keep your home at a comfortable temperature throughout the day. If you’re aged 65+, have limited mobility, and/or have a health condition, try to heat your home to at least 18C. You can help keep heat in at night by closing your curtains at dusk and shutting doors to prevent draughts. If you’re worried about the financial cost of turning up your thermostat, get in touch to find out about our winter fuel payment and information about additional government support you may be entitled to. For more tips on how to winterproof your home take a look at our article.

Bonus Tip: Now’s the time to have your boiler checked and serviced if needed. The last thing you need is your heating system failing mid-winter.

7. Stock up

Between winter weather and lockdown restrictions, it may not always be easy to nip to the shops. A little planning ahead can ensure you have plenty of meals and snacks for the days when it’s harder to get out.

Bonus tip: Stock the freezer with plenty of frozen fruit and veg. It’s often more nutritious than buying fresh and there’s no danger of it going to waste.

8. Check in

If you’re able to, try to check in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives and help ensure they are safe and warm and have plenty of supplies. If you can't visit in person, a friendly phone call will help them feel less alone. 

9. Stay hydrated

Water performs a number of crucial functions within the body, including carrying nutrients to your cells, removing waste products and regulating body temperature. It also makes up 73% of your brain. If you find yourself feeling lethargic, irritable, unable to focus or with a headache, you may be dehydrated.

The trick is to drink, before you feel thirsty. To keep your H2O levels topped up throughout the day try some of these tips to help you drink more water.

10. Relax and unwind

Stress hormones supress our immune systems so finding a way to relax and calm your mind is crucial for staying fit and healthy, at any time of year. Gentle yoga exercises are perfect for refocusing your thoughts and grounding your emotions, with the added bonus of getting you moving. Get started with our free online yoga practices.

CABA provides free lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members. 

If you’re worried about the impact of the pandemic on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you.