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How to boost your immunity in winter

23 June 2020

We all know the drill: wash your hands, stop touching your face. But there are other ways to protect yourself. Boosting your immunity in winter starts with strengthening your immune system (and you have more control over that than you think).

Get a flu shot

This winter may be especially brutal. We’re hit by the double whammy of COVID-19 and the regular flu season. So, this year, it’s especially important to get vaccinated. By lessening your chances of spreading the flu, you’re taking stress off the health system. Getting vaccinated may also be free — if you’re pregnant, over 65, or someone with chronic health conditions.

Think about your gut

Bacterial cells make up more than half your body’s cells1, and most of them live in your gut. The key is to cultivate good microbes to boost your immune system, as well as your overall health. Limit artificial sweeteners while loading up on fermented foods2 (think yoghurt and kimchi) to keep those microbes happy. Getting your daily fruits and vegies, though obvious, is easy to forget.

Choose fresh food over supplements

It’s nice to think all our health woes can be solved with a pill — especially if we live busy lives! But we can’t just pop a pill and call it a day. Staying healthy involves fresh nutrients, which are easier to absorb than their synthetic equivalents. Try to choose fresh food over supplements, unless, of course, you have a deficiency. And don’t forget to flavour all that fresh produce with a good mix of spices. Clove, oregano, thyme, cinnamon and cumin have antiviral and antimicrobial properties3.

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Get the right amount of sleep

We all know sleep is essential, but are you getting the right amount? Sleep calculators4 can be useful for working out the optimal number of hours for your age and lifestyle. A good night’s sleep helps your body repair and maintain itself, and this includes immune function.

Get the right amount of exercise

Exercise is another one of those things we all know we need. However, it’s important to consider the frequency and intensity. The Australian government has made it easy by publishing exercise guidelines5 for your demographic. Just winging it won’t cut it—you need to get the right weekly ‘serving size’ of exercise. The recommended weekly amount for people 18-64 is:

  • 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity
  • or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ of vigorous intensity physical activity,
  • or an equivalent combination of both.

The good news is that many daily chores count as moderate intensity activity6. So, you could get your weekly exercise fill mowing the lawn, walking briskly or giving your home an intense clean.

For vigorous intensity activity, consider hiking, jogging at 6 mph, shovelling, soccer or tennis singles.

Though, exercise of any kind helps, so add it to your schedule whenever you can. Even small habits (like breaking up long periods of sitting with a makeshift standing desk) help.

When thinking about your health and immunity, don’t forget health insurance! With Suncorp Extras, you could claim on everyday essentials like preventative dental treatment, or your trip to the physio. Opting for a higher level of Suncorp Health Insurance Extras cover could mean you could even claim on dietary advice, with up to 75% of the cost back, up to your annual limit. Getting a quote is easy—it takes just 60 seconds online.

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*The Reward and Recognition program ("Suncorp Benefits") is being operated by EONX Services Pty Ltd ABN 39 615 958 873. To register for Suncorp Benefits you must hold a current eligible personal policy or an eligible personal product or service from one of the brands in the Suncorp Network. Purchase limits apply to each individual retailer. See full Terms and Conditions. Use of Suncorp Benefits is subject to the operator’s privacy policy.

Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision about this insurance. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

Suncorp Health Insurance is issued by nib health funds limited ABN 83 000 124 381 (nib), a registered private health insurer, and is marketed by Platform CoVentures Pty Ltd ABN 82 626 829 623 (PC), a Suncorp Group company. PC is an authorised agent of nib and receives commission from nib.

1 https://www.bbc.com/news/health-43674270

2 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/improve-gut-bacteria#section8

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486105/

4 https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep/sleep-calculator#sleep-needs

5 https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

6 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/moderate-and-vigorous-physical-activity/#:~:text=Moderate%2Dintensity%20activities%20are%20those,burn%20more%20than%206%20METs

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