10* Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
No matter where you are or who you are with, you can stop yourself from getting sick and out of shape. Learn the easy ways to stay well all season long.
- Beat germs, stay well: During the holidays we really want to feel our best. But sometimes it a minefield of health risks. Beyond getting the flu vaccine, there’s a lot you can do to help your body weather the season. This is how to keep healthy—and merry—as you shop, travel, and celebrate.
- Wipe away germs: Keep disinfecting wipes with you all the time – preferably in your hand! The minute you leave your own home, use them. Wipe car handles, doorknobs, chair arms, table area in front of you. “Clean anything you might touch so you don’t pick up germs that those who sat there before you left behind,” says the director of infection control at University of California San Francisco Medical Center. Studies have shown flu virus—and even the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA—on airline tray tables. “From what we can tell from our results, no one ever disinfects those things,” adds environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD.
- Stay hydrated: Duirng the drier months of windter we have dry heat and low humidity and our airways become more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria, says Marc Leavey, MD, primary care physician at Lutherville Personal Physicians in Lutherville, Maryland. Staying well-hydrated keeps mucous membranes moist so they can better keep bugs out of our systems. Drink as much as 8 ounces every hour (especially if you are flying). Yes, that probably means using the plane’s germy lavatory (take your wipes!), but colds and flu are such monsters that you’re better off drinking than going dry.
- Cruise the area: Don’t sit for extended periods of time. Get up and move around to prevent deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), the formation of blood clots in your legs that can result from sitting immobile for long periods. DVT can be life-threatening if a clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. To avoid it, move around every 60 to 90 minutes. And if you tend to get clots, talk with your doctor about support hose.
- Watch your hands: Viruses tend to spread more from hand-to-mouth contact than through airborne droplets, making mall doors, escalator rails, elevator buttons, and ATM touch screens virus central. Pack an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse, and use it regularly. “The germs on your hands are the single biggest threat to your health, any time of year,” Dr. Leavey says.
- Give yourself a regular gift: Try a chair at the massage kiosk or salon: In a study at Cedars–Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a single Swedish massage session lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosted several types of white blood cells, which protect the body against germs. Only have 10 minutes to spare? Some massage is better than none.
- Hardest Trap of All: Don’t fall into the “I deserve this treat!” trap. Strolling around the mall is good exercise. But we tend to overestimate just how many calories we burn when we shop. “At most you burn 150 calories an hour if you weigh 150 pounds, and that’s a pretty generous estimate,” he says. Reality check: You’d have to walk for six hours to burn off a Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll. Resist! Resist!
- Snack, but wisely: Speaking of CINNABON – Plan ahead so when that warm, surgary, spicy smell invades your nostrils it won’t overpower your brain. Pack healthy snacks in your bag helps. Brinh a piece of fruit, low-fat string cheese, an ounce of nuts, a whole-wheat pita stuffed with turkey, low-fat Greek yogurt, or a granola bar (look for brands with about 150 calories, no more than 10 grams of sugar, and at least 3 grams of fiber).
- Stay in, rest up: If you run yourself ragged and don’t get a good night’s sleep, you risk getting ill just because you’ve worn down your body’s defenses,” Dr. Leavey says. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept at least eight hours nightly were about three times less likely to catch a cold than those who snoozed for less than seven. You’re not being a Grinch by skipping a party when you feel worn-down; you’re being smart. Think of it as preventive medicine.
- Tasty Holiday Treats: It’s cruel to say pass up tasty holiday fare, but if you’re feeling bloated after too many nights of baked Brie, try this simple party trick: Pop gum in your mouth 15 minutes before hitting the buffet table. “Chewing gum tricks your brain into thinking you’re eating, so you actually eat less,” says clinical psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, author of Eating Mindfully. Downing a mint in between servings can help, too: “It gives your body time to get a read on whether you are full or not,” Albers says.
*Have a drink (but not too many!):
Mulled wine. Eggnog. Pomegranate martinis -people get deliciously creatively during the holidays. Enjoy but make a plan. Before you party, eat something healthy. Set a limit of two alcoholic drinks and space them apart by a glass of water (or anything non-alcoholic) . Remember to eat during the event – healthy if possible . If we don’t eat , that can throw off blood sugar leading to next-day weariness. Any food will do to help absorb alcohol. If you wake up with a throbbing head, down some water, pop a pain reliever like ibuprofen, and sleep!