By: Christopher Bentajado, Medical Exercise Specialist
There are a multitude of reasons why one should not only exercise regularly during the week, but also adopt basic self-care habits throughout their week. The purpose of this article is to explore various tips to help you easily choose a healthy lifestyle, as well as give your immunity the kick that it needs to stay well during cold and flu season.
Tip #1: Practice mindfulness, breathwork and meditation.
Per a 2017 publication in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 20 randomized controlled trials that involved more than 1,6000 individuals suggests that meditation may help keep our immune systems functioning optimally. This is because it helps to decrease negative or distress, which can have a deleterious impact on our immunity. One of my favorite self-care routines involves doing breathwork and meditation to set the tone for my day. This can also be done at the end of the day, or anytime you feel you are stressed or anxious.
Let’s practice a little bit of breathwork now: try inhaling through the nose for a count of 4, feeling your belly rise and ribcage expand, and hold that breath of air in for a count of 7. Exhale through your mouth as if you were blowing out of a straw through pursed lips for a count of 8. Feel better? If you’re looking to connect with your inner calm and energy, try out the 9-minute video that our very own CHF instructor, Carrie Kerster, has created on our Beach Cities Health District YouTube page.
Tip #2: Create the time for your exercise regime.
Participating in a regular movement and exercise practice is a great way to manage stress and strengthen your immune system. A 2013 study in The Scientific World Journal shows that individuals who engage in a regular physical activity program have lower incidence of illness and infection compared to their sedentary counterparts. If you’re lost and unsure of how to get started with an exercise program or are interested in enhancing the program you’re already following, there are several excellent options available to you to help provide direction and structure at CHF. You will establish the foundation you need to carry you through all future workouts by investing in personal training or small group training sessions. Learn about working with a trainer by enrolling in a Back2Basics Workshop, attending an Ask a Trainer session in the lobby, or scheduling an Equipment Orientation, all for free in January 2023.
Tip #3: Log those Z’s!
Not only can maintaining good sleep habits enhance your youthful exuberance, but according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), getting enough sleep per night can actually boost your immunity. The NSF recommends aiming for seven to eight hours of shut eye per night, and it could prove useful to try to go to bed at roughly the same time each night, which can assist you with getting up at roughly the same time each morning-- thus creating a healthy routine for yourself (see, full circle here).
If you happen to find that your mind goes wild at night and you’ve tried exercise during the day and even attempted breathwork and meditation practices, then filling in the gaps with an afternoon nap can be helpful. The NSF recommends not exceeding 30-minute sessions when you snooze through a siesta, as this can lead you into the deeper stages of sleep, which can lead to a sensation of grogginess upon waking. Per the NSF, taking two naps less than 30 minutes in duration-- one in the morning and one in the afternoon-- has been proven to decrease stress, improve alertness, and offset the negative effects of sleep deprivation. If this is not a realistic goal, a 20-minute nap during a lunch break, after work, or before dinner could be helpful. But be sure to set an alarm, as sleeping past your 20 to 30 minute nap may interfere with your evening sleep habits.
- Black, D. S., & Slavich, G. M. (2016). Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373(1), 13–24.
- Huang, C. J., Zourdos, M. C., Jo, E., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2013). Influence of physical activity and nutrition on obesity-related immune function. TheScientificWorldJournal, 2013, 752071.
- Boost Your Health with Better Sleep. (2020). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity