COVID-19 has changed the way we live for the foreseeable future and the conversation around public health has never been louder. In the fight against the coronavirus, following the instructions of government health officials, observing social distancing guidelines and self-isolating when required is essential. Meanwhile, the WHO is emphasizing the importance of hygiene: wash your hands regularly, try not to touch your face and avoid people who are sick. The experts have also stressed that older people and those with pre-existing conditions are the most vulnerable to the virus, which highlights the importance of preventative health measures – a strong immune system is our best defense.
Your immune system is one variable you can influence with lifestyle choices – but what can you do to help keep your body’s natural defensive barrier in shape? Here are a few simple tips.
Easier said than done, right? There have been unprecedented levels of news coverage and discussion on social media about the outbreak of this virus, and sometimes it can feel like it’s impossible to escape the noise. Arianna Huffington summed it up nicely in her recent article on the importance of preventative health in the face of COVID-19:
“Here is the coronavirus paradox: every day we are exposed to a constant stream of coronavirus news, but instead of easing our worries, the flood of information about new cases, some of them close to our homes, event cancelations, stock market drops, etc. etc., only makes us more stressed, which in turn suppresses our immune system.”
Take measures to actively avoid stress. Meditation and exercise can help. If the flood of information is overwhelming, stay off social media and check in with trusted news outlets for official updates only at the start and end of the day to give your mind a break.
If the flood of bad news is freaking you out, take a time-out from social media.
World Health Organization advice and governmental directives that we maintain social distancing doesn’t mean you need to park yourself on the sofa indefinitely. Staying active is a great way to fight off illness. Exercise is proven to reduce stress, and can also release white blood cells which help fight ailments like the common cold.
You may have seen stories about the man in Wuhan, China who ran 31 miles (50km) in his apartment or the Frenchman who ran a full marathon on his balcony while under lockdown. If you are restricted from going to the gym or the park at any stage, Centr trainers have plenty of workout options to get you moving in your living room (with minimal or no equipment).
A balanced, nutrient-rich diet is one of the key measures we can take in maintaining good overall health. According to Advanced Sports Dietician Lisa Middleton, you should crank up your vitamin intake by eating plenty of leafy greens and fruit.
“Focus on fresh fruit and vegetables – different colors and varieties will give you a good spread of essential nutrients. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, probiotics, and lean proteins are also an important element – basically nutrient-dense foods that will help boost your nutrient intake and help the body to work at its best.”
Centr meal plans are dietician approved and designed to give you all the nutrients you need. But if you are feeling under the weather, feel free to add greens to any recipe for an extra nutrient kick or check out our top four immunity-boosting ingredients. If you’re finding it difficult to buy certain vegetables, swap for something similar or do your best with frozen or canned veg. Canned or dried legumes (the latter take longer to cook) are also packed with nutrition, cheap and easy to store. Frozen and canned fruit is also a fine substitute if you can’t buy fresh – drain the juice and throw into a smoothie or add to your oats.
For a vitamin boost, add leafy greens.
A good night’s sleep isn’t just important for your brain – your body needs it too. A study by researchers at the University of California and Carnegie Mellon University showed that shorter sleep duration was associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold.
The flip side of that is that longer, better quality sleep will strengthen your immunity. As Neuroscience professor Matthew Walker puts it in his book Why We Sleep:
“No matter what immunological circumstance you find yourself in – be it preparation for receiving a vaccine to help boost immunity, or mobilizing a mighty adaptive immune response to defeat a viral attack — sleep, and a full night of it is inviolable.”
Remember: it’s important to follow the advice of health professionals and organizations, but do not neglect your body’s natural defense mechanisms. Stay active, eat well, get plenty of sleep and don’t let stress get the better of you.
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