Staying Healthy and Active this Winter

With kids back in school or full-time daycare, respiratory illness season is here and it’s a perfect time to change things up a bit and set yourself up for a healthy and active winter season. 

The goal is not necessarily to avoid illness altogether, but to have a milder course, to decrease complications and hospitalizations, and prevent transmission to those who are more susceptible, like the immune-compromised, young children and babies, and people over the age of 70. 

I think about the various “loads” placed on my body and when you are wanting to support a natural process like immunity, it’s helpful to lighten the load in other areas. For example, it’s not the time to be eating foods you are sensitive or allergic to, or to stop exercising, or to be increasing your consumption of tobacco or alcohol. Our best immunity is to allow our immune system to do its work in peace and supporting the process that is already in place. How do you do that? Here are a few simple ways to start: 

  • Increase consumption of clean/filtered water. Our local water source can be great but it’s inconsistent enough that I use a simple gravity countertop filter such as the Berkey system. This is particularly important if anyone in your household has a compromised immune system, is older, younger, or pregnant. A simple intake calculator would be 1 oz water intake/kg of body weight. Drink more if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, doing moderate exercise, or drink caffeine/alcohol. 
  • Try to keep up with exercise through these darker and colder winter months. Move it inside or embrace the outdoors with appropriate clothing and aim for at least 150 minutes/week of a mixture of cardio and strength training.
  • Clean up that diet! It’s tough to shop for what you want with these prices and the inconsistent availability of some food items, so buy what’s in season and stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables which can actually contain more nutrients as a result of being picked at peak ripeness. Aim for a plate divided into quarters with 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch, and half vegetables.
  • During the holiday consider swapping out some of those cocktails with mocktails to avoid binge drinking and be mindful of having “no alcohol” days throughout the week.
  • Fill your cup with time spent with family and friends. Winter can feel lonely for a lot of different reasons and it can be harder to fit in time with your community so commit to scheduling a phone call or coffee date a few times a week.
  • Stock your cupboard for when you do come down with an illness. Freeze batches of bone broth or buy powdered bone broth. Take multivitamins, vitamin D, probiotics and B vitamins throughout the fall/winter months. Have vitamin C and zinc stocked as well as herbs that have some evidence behind supporting recovery from viral illnesses including elderberry and echinacea. Have your cool mist humidifier clean and ready to go, buy a fresh bottle of saline spray (or drops for the littles), and medication to use as needed (and as directed by your doctor). 
  • Consider taking advantage of the vaccines available to us, including the flu vaccine and the COVID booster.
  • Practice good hygiene, washing hands frequently, teaching kids to use the inner elbow for coughing, and staying home from school/work when ill.
We can’t outrun all of the illnesses that circulate but we can support our own immune system as well as try to keep those around us healthy. Try some of these strategies to support your family this winter and stay healthy and active!

Taina is a naturopathic physician and midwife living and working in Fernie. She is the mama to two young boys and is passionate about whole-family health care throughout the life span, particularly fertility support, pediatric care, and hormone-balancing during the perimenopausal years.

Austyn Moi Photo