Body & Fitness

Six ways to stay well this winter

Cold and flu season is upon us again, but just because it's winter, it doesn't mean you have to succumb to these viruses. There are things you can do to decrease your chances of getting them, and recovering more quickly if you do.

Eat garlic

Garlic contains allicin, a compound that fights infections such as colds. one study shows people who ate garlic every day during winter boosted their chances of not getting sick by two-thirds, and those who did get a cold recovered far more quickly. Try adding one to three cloves of cooked garlic to your food each day.

Drink black tea

A black tea a day can stimulate your body’s immune system into warding off cold and flu, according to an American study. It encourages extra production of interferon, a powerful protein that fights infection.

Meanwhile, Japanese researchers have found that black and green tea contain antioxidants that prevent the influenza virus sticking to cell walls, which is the first step to getting sick.

Wash hands

The best defence against the spread of viruses is good hygiene. Bugs can lurk on surfaces for up to three days and be easily transferred when you touch things like door handles. Use soap and hot water, rubbing your hands together for at least the amount of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday (try singing it to yourself twice to make sure). You should then dry your hands properly, using a paper towel or a hand drier.

Don’t touch

Get creative when it comes to handling things that have been touched by lots of other people – such as ATM and eftpos machines, lift buttons and door handles – so you don’t inadvertently pick up bugs they may be harbouring on your fingers. If you then touch your nose or mouth you can become infected. Use your knuckles to push buttons and lean against doors that swing out. If you can’t avoid touching things in public places wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser – especially before eating or preparing food.

Try t’ai chi

A Chinese study has found that women who practise t’ai chi for an hour four times a week have increased levels of two different types of cells that fight infections. Their levels of these cells were nearly a third greater four months after they started the ancient martial art.

Meanwhile, other research shows moderate exercise – around 20 to 30 minutes a day – can help protect against colds and flu.

Exercise increases blood flow around the body, which gets nutrients to cells more quickly, and decreases stress hormones, which slow down the response of your immune system.

Have a flu shot

A new flu vaccine is developed every year to counter the strains of influenza likely to be doing the rounds. It works by stimulating your immune system to make antibodies that protect against the strains that are circulating. It can’t give you the flu, as it only contains virus fragments.

Health watch

  • Just one night of sleep deprivation can slow down metabolism and lead to weight gain. Scientists have known for some time that there’s a link between poor sleep and putting on weight, and now a Swedish study has found that even a single night of missed sleep reduces the amount of energy the body uses to do things like breathing and digesting food, so it’s not burning as many calories.

  • A gas linked to global warming could be used as a treatment for sore backs. Studies have shown a mix of ozone and oxygen gas can shrink tissue and reduce pain, and it’s being tested in Spain as a way of treating pain from slipped or herniated discs.

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