Stop Making Yourself Sick This Winter

Jeanne Sager
Healthy Living

6 health habits you need this winterHello winter, it's been almost exactly a month since you began, and we're already sick of you. Scratch that. We're already sick. Period.

Between the stomach bug the kid brought home on the last day of school before winter break that seemed to make its way through the family twice over the holidays and the misery of cabin fever, winter tends to take a lot out of us. News flash: some of that is our fault.

Winter coincides with giving up some of our very best health habits -- because we don't think we need them anymore. Want to feel better? Brush up on the surprising habits you should be keeping up with in winter.

1. Slather on the Sunscreen. It's so cold outside the sun can't possibly be hurting your skin. Right? Er, sorry. Just because you can't feel it doesn't mean the sun isn't dangerous. The Skin Cancer Foundation says the UV levels in the sun are actually more dangerous when you're at higher altitudes enjoying wintry activities such as skiing or snowboarding than when you're down at sea level hitting the waves.

Even more dangerous? Snow traditionally reflects about 80 percent of the UV light from the sun back up at you, so you're getting twice the level of sun exposure during winter that you'd get during the summer months.

2. Drink Your Water. The ever-present water bottle is a sign of summer weather, when you're sweaty and in need of something cool to beat the heat. But there's no automatic off switch when the weather cools down. You're still losing water via your urine, your breathing, even perspiration during the winter, and it needs to be replaced lest you get dehydrated and suffer headaches, exhaustion, and a whole raft of misery. Keeping up with the recommended eight to nine cups has an added benefit during the winter -- it keeps your skin hydrated to combat the dryness of most indoor heating systems.

3. Wear Your Sunglasses. Like sunscreen, sunglasses are as important in the winter as they are in the summer to block out the harmful sun rays. Sunburn on the eyes is real -- and painful -- and long term exposure to the sun's rays ups your chances of developing cataracts and cancers of the eye. But they also do double duty to block out the bitter winds of winter, which can dry out your eyes.

4. Munch Your Vitamin D. For all the evils of the sun, there's a big benefit to catching some rays: it replenishes your vitamin D levels, which in turn protect you from heart disease. Hiding out in the house to stay warm means you need to find other sources. So get eating -- all these foods are rich in vitamin D.

5. Wash Your Hands. Your skin dries out like crazy during the winter, and every hand washing feels like it's putting you one step closer to chap city. Who cares? The CDC still says it's the best way to fight germs and prevent disease. So suck it up and get scrubbing.

6. Get Moving. It's cold. You're miserable. You'd prefer to curl up on the couch with some hot chocolate and a naughty book. But sitting around is making you sick, so get moving and reap the benefits of a better mood and a smaller waistline. Just think: you won't have to spend spring getting back to your summer weight if you never pack on those pounds.

What are the good habits you tend to give up on in winter?


Image via waferboard/Flickr

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