Why do some people seem to easily avoid colds and flu? Follow these tips from real people and experts, and you might be able to steer clear of them too.
Great things happen to your body when you drink enough water, one of which is flushing out germs that could make you sick. “Stay hydrated,” advises Renee Miranda, MD, a family medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. How do you know how much to drink? “Take your weight in pounds, divide in half, and this is approximately how many ounces of water you need a day,” she says. “For example, someone who is 150 pounds needs about 75 ounces of water a day.”
2. They don’t skimp on sleep
When you don’t sleep enough, studies have found that your immune system suffers, and you’re more prone to getting sick. “Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for the body,” Dr. Miranda says. “When we sleep, the body gets a chance to recuperate, repair, and rejuvenate.” She recommends getting at least six to eight hours of sleep a night.
3. They practice yoga or meditation
A review of decades of research published in Psychological Bulletin found that stress does indeed have a negative impact on your immune system. “My husband rarely gets sick, and I think it’s because he’s rarely stressed,” says Kacia Putnam of Morristown, New Jersey. To boost your immune system, “manage your stress,” says Dr. Miranda. “Start with some form of breathing exercises or meditation practices daily to help reduce stress levels.” Frank Lipman, MD, bestselling author and founder of Be Well and the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, also advises meditation, while Dr. Nandi suggests yoga to help manage stress levels.
4. They take zinc
Vitamin C is not that effective for colds—but what about zinc? Study results have been mixed, but a review in Open Forum Infectious Diseases found that those who took zinc within the first 24 hours of symptoms had a shorter duration of colds. “If you do take zinc, take it in the form of a syrup or lozenge, which allows it to stay in the throat where it can come into contact with a virus like a cold,” says nutrition and fitness expert Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “Zinc nasal sprays are not recommended as they may result in a loss of smell.”
5. They get outside
Even when it’s cold out, there are snowy day activities the whole family can enjoy—and they may even help prevent you from getting a winter bug. “Getting outside for a change of scenery, going for a walk on a trail, and breathing fresh air promotes a more active lifestyle, helps with circulation, provides stress relief, and improves well-being,” Dr. Miranda says. “It’s not uncommon that many of us are sitting in front of a computer screen, TV, or mobile phone for many hours of the day, and sitting for long periods of time promotes a sedentary lifestyle.” In warmer weather, Dr. Lipman also suggests bike riding and walking barefoot on the earth to connect with nature.
6. They get together with friends
Laughter really is the best medicine, and sharing happy times with loved ones may increase the likelihood you’ll stay healthy. “The human body adapts to whatever environment you expose it to, so if you expose it to an environment with a lot of negative stressors like negative thoughts and people who are not supportive of you, the body undergoes more stress and this has a negative impact on your overall health,” Dr. Miranda says. “When you expose the body to a positive environment, supportive friends and family, and work on stress relief with laughing therapy, the body experiences less stress and this has positive health benefits.” A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that having strong social relationships may positively impact longevity. So connecting with friends and family, even virtually, could be beneficial in more ways than one.
7. They think positive
You can develop a positive attitude in six easy steps, and your immune system will thank you for it. “Our mental health has a huge impact on our physical health,” Dr. Lipman says. “A great example of this is stress as we can often see and feel how dramatically it can affect our mental and physical state.” A negative outlook, therefore, can weaken your body’s defenses against illness. “Mind and body are not separate, and having a good attitude can make all the difference in the world with maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Miranda says. Studies have shown that optimism can positively impact everything from disease outcomes to longevity.