How to Avoid Colds & Flu This Winter

As a freelance personal trainer in London, it’s in my best interests to stay as fit and healthy as possible. Same goes for every self-employed person, who lacks the luxury that all employees have: taking days off sick at the expense of their employer. Employees, you don’t know how lucky you are!

You can’t guarantee never to get another cold, but you can do a lot to reduce their frequency and severity.

So if you want to increase your chances of avoiding colds this winter, and every winter for the rest of your life, follow these guidelines:

Keep warm

Being too cold lowers your immunity to viruses, which is why colds & flu are most prolific in December and January.

When you’re outdoors, wrap up warm, and wear a hat. We lose between 20-30% of our body-heat through our heads. When indoors, keep the heating on low, to take the chill off the air. Don’t have the heating on too high (most people do), as it dries out the protective mucus in our nasal passages and leaves us more vulnerable to invading viruses. It’s also unhealthy to move from an overheated indoors to a cold outdoors – the shock weakens your immune system.

Dry out any damp rooms (particularly bathrooms), damp clothes, towels, drying-up cloths, or damp bedding. Viruses survive longer and multiply far faster in damp conditions.

Avoid other people with colds & flu

You’re most at risk of catching a cold when you’re around someone already infected, particularly when they’re coughing and sneezing all over you. This is hard when your kids come home with colds caught at school: educate your coldy kids to wash their hands frequently, flush used tissues down the loo, and cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze.

When you’re out in public, move away from people who obviously have colds (clues: sneezing, coughing, nose-blowing) and if you’re on the tube and someone displays any coldy symptoms, move away asap.

Wash your hands

Particularly after you’ve been out in public, wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water when you get home or back to the office. You’ve probably seen medical dramas and documentaries where surgeons wash their hands really thoroughly before they go into the operating-theatre, so mimic that and you’ll kill off far more viruses and bacteria from your hands.

Most people infect themselves with colds by rubbing their eyes, nose or mouth with their hands. Worse still is licking your fingers or putting fingers into your mouth. I bet you’ve eaten sandwiches on the tube, or licked your finger before turning the page of the Metro. You’re at really high risk of catching a cold when you do this. Imagine how many surfaces you’ve touched after your last hand-washing: door-knobs, escalator hand-rails, shaking other peoples’ hands. All these surfaces can harbour germs.

Don’t forget to throw away used tissues, and never use non-disposable tissues, you’ll just be harbouring germs in your pocket.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, your immune system is likely to be far weaker than non-smokers. Quit smoking asap and your body will recover fast. Why not join Fitness Buddy and find some quit-smoking buddies?

Stay active

Exercise boosts your immune system, as well as making you stronger and fitter. Although too much exercise can deplete your immune system, the vast majority of people  seldom come close to doing too much exercise, which I’d define as over 2 hours intensive exercise every day. Note that professional sportspeople sometimes get bad viruses, and this is often caused by over-exercising and not recovering sufficiently between competition/training.

If you’re over-tired, run-down, or already have a cold or other illness, get well first before doing any intensive exercise. Your immune system will be working hard to fight off the infection, so rest and recover first, focusing on raising your cold-fighting nutrition (see below) and getting plenty of sleep.

Sleep better

Your body and mind repair themselves mainly during sleep, and this includes your immune system. For more tips on sleeping better, see my sleep page.  One of my personal training clients in Chelsea, London SW3, slept very badly until he started putting into practice the tips on my sleep page, so check it out!

Reduce your stress levels and improve your mood

High stress levels and negative emotions have a profound effect on your immune system. The more stressed you are, the more susceptible you are to colds & flu. Many of my personal training clients in London are highly stressed with their high-powered jobs, and all have benefited from acting on the advice in my Reduce Stress page.

Reduce your alcohol intake and cut out all junk-food

Alcohol, sugar, processed foods, all these suppress your immune system and leave you open to colds & flu. They leach vitamins and minerals from your body, and these micro-nutrients are vital for keeping you healthy.

Drink more water

Water is vital for every single biochemical process in your body, including kidney function to help you flush toxins out of your body. Most Londoners are dehydrated, which depletes the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to colds & flu.

Eat more immune-boosting foods

What are the most powerful immune-boosting foods? You’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s blog post!

Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London with over 12 years experience, who has not had a bad cold for years.