8 Winter Tips for Healthy Living

A better diet, a little more exercise - healthy living is easy if you take it one tip at a time.

From the WebMD Archives

Holidays, stress, post-holidays, even more stress -- who has time for taking care of ourselves?

You do! Resolve to follow these eight diet, exercise, and lifestyle tips, and you can be good to yourself this winter - and all year long.

1. Enjoy the Benefits of Yogurt

It's creamy smooth, packed with flavor -- and just may be the wonder food you've been craving. Research suggests that that humble carton of yogurt may:

Ready to take home a few cartons of yummy yogurt? When buying think low-fat, make sure the yogurt contains active cultures and vitamin D, and keep tabs on sugar content.

2. Help Holiday Heartburn

Getting hit with heartburn over the holidays? Help is at hand! Try these hints and you can stop the burn before it starts:

Nibble: Enjoy your favorite foods -- but in moderation. No need to heap on the goodies (or go back for seconds and thirds!). Packing your stomach with food makes heartburn much more likely.

Know Your Triggers: Certain foods feed heartburn's flame. Typical triggers include foods full of sugar and fat -- think pumpkin pie slathered with whipped cream. Instead reach for complex carbs like veggies and whole-wheat breads -- or at least share that dessert!

Get Up: Stretching out for a nap post-meal is a great way to guarantee you'll get reflux. Instead, keep your head higher than your stomach -- or keep right on walking, away from the dinner table and out the door. Light exercise is a great way to prevent heartburn.

3. Kiss Holiday Cold Sores Good-bye

Holidays: That busy time for toasting the coming year, savoring seasonal sweets, staying up late -- and cold sores?

If you find you're more prone to cold sores (also called fever blisters) during the hectic holiday season, you may be your own worst enemy. That's because lack of sleep, too much alcohol or sugar, stress, and close physical contact (think auntie's smooches) can all contribute to outbreaks.

So, to help keep your kisser cold-sore-free this year -- or to keep from passing your cold sores to others -- try these tips:

  • Don't overdo the holiday goodies -- maintain a healthy diet.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Don't share food or drink containers.
  • Discard used tissues.
  • Don't kiss on or near anyone's cold sore -- and don't let them near yours!

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4. De-Stress With Meditation

The bad weather, the seasonal pace, work: If this time of year has your stress meter spiking, it may be time to close your eyes, breathe ... and get a little repetitive.

Repetition is at the heart of meditation's soothing power. The act of banishing thoughts, focusing on your breathing, and repeating a single word or phrase, fires up your body's natural relaxation response.

And meditation can do more than soothe away stress. Research shows it may help lower blood pressure, boost immunity, reduce PMS symptoms, even aid in fertility and the delivery of a new mom's milk.

5. Start a Winter Tradition: Family Workouts

Grandparents are in town, a flurry of kids is underfoot, and you're wondering where you'll find time for a quick winter workout. Here's a thought: Why not get everyone involved with these simple workouts?

Walking: It's suitable for young or old, with a pace that's sedate or speedy. Try these ideas to get the gang on their feet:

  • Do laps at the mall. If you shop, cart your own packages and then unload them in the car after every store.
  • Disguise the walk as something else. Toss a ball as you stroll, fling a Frisbee, or take the dog to the park.
  • Instead of driving, walk over to your favorite local restaurant.
  • Take part in a holiday fund-raiser, like the Arthritis Foundation's Jingle Bell Run/Walk

Make the Living Room Your Gym

When everyone's on the couch chatting, or watching TV -- why not sneak in a little calorie burn, too?

  • Do crunches: Sit on the edge of the couch, hands gripping the edge at your side, then bend knees, lifting them toward your chest.
  • Leg lifts: Use the same position as above, but lift your legs straight up, instead of bending them.
  • Trim those triceps by doing dips off the couch edge.
  • Build your biceps: Grab a bottle of water or a can of soda and do curls.

6. Eat Locally

Organic may be today's healthy-eating watchword, but don't forget this phrase too: eat locally.

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Some nutritionists think eating locally may be even more important than eating organically. That's because a vital factor in a food's nutrient profile is how long it took to get from farm to table: A head of locally grown lettuce, for example, may be more nutrient-dense than one shipped coast to coast.

Does this mean you should forgo pesticide-free foods when they're available? No, but it's a great idea to make room on your plate for locally-grown goods too, even if they haven't been grown the organic way. Better yet: Eat locally and organic, when you can.

An easy way to get local -- and often organic -- food on the table: Join a CSA (community-supported agriculture). CSAs help you form a relationship with a local farm, which then provides you with fresh, local produce, even milk, eggs, or cheese. Some also function twelve months a year. Find a CSA near you at LocalHarvest.org.

7. Try These 3 Simple Diet & Exercise Tips

Go Slow: You don't need to do a diet slash-and-burn. If you cut just 200 calories a day you'll see slow (and easy) weight loss. Skip a pat of butter here, a cookie there and you're on your way!

Start Small: Banning junk food from the cupboards or boosting fiber may be your goal, but think baby steps. Switch from potato chips to low-fat popcorn, for example, or toss a carrot into your brown bag lunch.

Just Show Up: Don't feel like working out today? Don those exercise clothes anyway. Still not in the mood? Fine. But chances are good that once you're dressed, you're also motivated and ready to go!

8. Invest in Your Health - Literally

If you have a high-deductible insurance plan, you're probably eligible to deposit tax-free cash into a health savings account (HSA).

HSAs help you sock away savings now for medical expenses later. Open an HSA and each year you can stash $3,050 for yourself ($6,150 for a family) -- tax-free. And if you don't use up the balance in your HSA this year, it simply rolls over into the next year, and the next -- and continues to grow tax-deferred. Intrigued? Talk to your human resources department to find out if you're eligible.

Whichever healthy steps you take this year -- eating better, exercising more, saving -- remember they're an investment in you and your future. So follow these steps toward better health -- or take your own. Bank a little more sleep this year. Set aside stressful differences. Stock a healthier pantry. Salt away ... a little less salt. It's your body -- and your future!

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 27, 2010

Sources

SOURCES: Medical College of Wisconsin, Healthlink: "Left Alone, Cold Sores Usually Heal by Themselves." WebMD Feature: "Relief of Heartburn: 10 Hints for the Holidays," "Eat Locally: Community Supported Agriculture," "Meditation Balances the Body's Systems." WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Exclusive Feature: "10 Ways to Burn Off Holiday Calories," "Family Fitness Across the Generations." Local Harvest.org. WebMD Tips: "Health Simplified: Tip of the Day Archive." WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature: "The Benefits of Yogurt." U.S. Office of Personnel Management: "High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) with Health Savings Accounts (HSA)," "Benefits Administration Letter." Kiplinger's Personal Finance: "Health Savings Account Answers."

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