5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

When colds and coughs are making the rounds, rev up your natural defenses with these stay-healthy strategies.

Colds don’t strike solely in the winter—germs and viruses are circulating year round. But you can protect yourself and potentially stave off a cold. The key is strengthening your immune system while taking simple steps to avoid germs.

Eat your veggies (and other vitamin-rich foods). You’ve heard it before, but that’s because it’s true: Eating well really does keep you healthier. Load your plate with fresh produce, whole grains, and lean protein to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

Take a walk. Regular low-impact exercise, like a daily walk, can help protect against head colds. And there’s no need to push yourself hard to reap the immune-boosting rewards. Research shows that vigorous exercise (like a long run) doesn’t increase your immunity benefit, and it could even increase your risk of injury if you’re not smart about how you train.

De-stress. You’ve probably noticed that you seem to get sick more easily when you’re under pressure—and you’re not alone. Chronic anxiety and stress can suppress your immune system. Even when life is crazy, find ways to relieve stress through exercise, meditation, getting more sleep, or even unwinding with some close pals. It will help keep your defense system strong.

Wash your hands. It is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of germs. Washing your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds is the gold standard, but alcohol-based sanitizer works in a pinch.

Get a dose of D. Just 15 minutes of sunlight two or three times a week can give you a dose of this immune-boosting vitamin. If you can’t get outside (especially during the winter when days are shorter), consider taking a vitamin D supplement, and try to put plenty of vitamin D-rich foods on your plate. Salmon and other fatty fish, canned tuna, fortified cereals, milk, and mushrooms (check labels) are all good choices.

Surprising Germ Hotspots

Avoid these five unexpected culprits of virus and bacteria transmission as much as you can—or at least be sure to wash your hands after touching them.

Sink faucets. Oh, the irony! The very place you go to wash your hands can harbor the highest concentration of germs. Try to avoid touching the tap in public restrooms (grab a paper towel to work the handles), and remember to use plenty of soap while washing.

Dishtowels. You’ve just washed your hands, and now that grimy dishrag threatens to undo all the good you just did. Keep paper towels at the ready for your hands; save dishtowels for mopping up countertops (and wash them often). While we’re on the subject of towels, consider assigning each member of your household their own hand towel in the bathroom.

Restaurant ketchup bottles. Odds are every restaurant patron has grabbed them, and they pretty much never get washed off. That goes for saltshakers and menus too.

The remote. When’s the last time your remote control got cleaned? Yeah, we thought so. Wipe yours down with a little alcohol or a disinfectant wipe the next time you hit the couch for a little R&R (and don’t forget to do the same when you’re staying in a hotel room).

Your car. Yes, the inside of your car. You spend hours in there every day, breathing and touching and generally germing up your dashboard. Give it a wipe-down—and stay healthy on the go.

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