How to stay healthy in the winter
In the winter months it is incredibly important to keep fit and healthy in order to avoid illness and maintain wellness. At The Doctors Clinic Group, the month of December is our Winter Wellness month where we talk about all things winter and wellness and how to stay in tip top shape throughout the colder months.
Keeping up the conversation surrounding health and wellbeing is important, particularly in the winter months. Many people report feeling lethargic or suffering with seasonal effectiveness disorder. *More than 1 in 20 people have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder or (SAD) at some point in their life, with people living in London being significantly more likely (11%) to experience SAD than the rest of the UK.
On top of that, many of us will end up catching a cold or a nasty flu bug in the winter months. *An average of 8000 people die from flu in England each year. What’s more is that *flu is a highly infectious illness which spreads rapidly in closed communities and even people with no symptoms can infect others. Studies show that up to 77% of people with flu have no symptoms and so could potentially spread it to the most vulnerable.
According to Tatler magazine, the transition between seasons can leave 1 in 20 of us with the 'winter blues', 10 percent of whom may develop clinical depression. At the same time, England's health chiefs say they will need to create an extra 7,000 beds to tackle 'substantial' pressures for winter 2022 - BBC News. It can be hard to foster a productive and positive environment if your team is struggling with mental health or increased stress.
So, what can we do to stay healthier in the winter? Are employers doing enough to keep their employees healthy and safe during the winter season? With many reporting mental health issues in the winter and the added stress of flu and covid viruses circulating around, this is something employees could be struggling with in the midst trying to operate a somewhat normal work life.
Tips to keep your team healthier in the winter months
Keeping your team healthy when it’s colder can be difficult. The colder and darker weather in the winter months isn’t very motivating! However, it’s not impossible, and actually may be easier as a team effort. Here are some of the ways you can keep your team healthier in the winter with a few bonus tips:
Eating a balanced diet
We are what we eat, and our diet not only affects our energy levels but also how we feel mentally. Trying to keep up with eating our 5-a-day is super important for our energy levels, regulating hormones and maintaining a strong immune system. Eating a diet mainly consisting of fast food or highly processed foods can lead to us having a higher intake of salt and sugar. By adding more fresh foods, seeds and vegetables to our diets, we can make a big difference to our overall health. Try and encourage bringing your own healthy lunches and snacks into work to dissuade people from grabbing a quick non nutritious lunch and promote healthy eating in the workplace.
Top Tip: Trying to lose weight can be very difficult, let alone in the winter months. If this is something your team may be struggling with consider seeking professional help. A dietitian can work with your team and help create a plan.
From boosting our mood and self-esteem to improving our heart and bone health, regular exercise has an overall positive impact on our health. 30 minutes of exercise a day can lower stress levels, boost immunity and help with better sleep. Get your team moving by setting fun interactive challenges: Who can get the most steps? Who can log the most active minutes? 1 burpee for every minute you’re late!
In the winter months we often tend to shy away from going outside. Let’s face it, it’s often cold, wet, windy and dark. However, going outside is actually good for you! Although the weather won’t be great some of the time, we recommend going on a walk at least once a day and getting some good old vitamin D from the sun’s rays. Your body creates Vitamin D naturally from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. So, even if you wrap up warmly, make sure you go outside in the cooler months to get your daily dose of Vitamin D.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body? These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Consider a health screen
Encourage your team to get a check-up on their overall health. A health assessment can help with early detection of higher risks of developing certain health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and various types of cancer. Early detection means early treatment, and a higher chance of survival.
Health screens are a great way to pro-actively ensure your team are in a good shape. Blood tests are also a great way to help determine overall health and to keep track of physical wellbeing. A blood test can also identify nutritional profiles, and Vitamin D levels.
Mental health support
In the winter months, many people will suffer with low mood or SAD (Seasonal affective disorder). This can be due to a number of reasons such as the day’s getting shorter and darker, the cold weather or catching colds and flu more easily leading to illness and time away from work or day-today life.
If you feel members of your team are low mood or SAD, there’s a few things you can encourage them to alleviate some of the symptoms. Seeing a GP is the first call of action, our GPs at The Doctors Clinic Group are specially trained in mental health and can support and make specialist referrals should it be needed. We can also recommend speaking to friends and family, creating a support bubble, doing things they enjoy like a hobby and keeping up with their daily fitness routines. It all starts with talking, make sure they know that work is a safe space for them to talk openly about how they are feeling.
Get a flu and covid booster jab
Get your team vaccinated. It’s never too late to get vaccinated against the flu. This will also boost your team's immunity against nasty winter bugs. Flu accounts for many deaths during the winter months as it affects the respiratory system. Not only that but encourage your team to get their Covid boosters as covid cases will be rising in the wintertime.
Get enough sleep
How much we sleep and how much we need also differs from person to person and changes as we get older. Sleep can have a major effect on your day-to-day life and immune system. Good sleep hygiene is imperative to staying healthy, especially in the winter months.
See a GP if anything is wrong
Private GP appointments or corporate healthcare can also be another way in which you can support your team. The Doctors Clinic Group has a team of GPs who are all mental health trained as well as being able to make fast referrals for those who may need more care. Our GP’s can also provide vaccinations such as flu. Prevention is better than the cure, if you have any concerns over your team's health the best thing to do is to encourage them to see a GP as soon as possible. But before you get to that point you want to be doing everything you can to prevent any illness in the first place.
Time for a health screen?
Book a health screen today to get a deeper understanding of your health!
What are the causes of winter illness?
Some of the main causes of winter illness are often due to lack of healthy eating or fitness but can also be caused by external factors such as winter bugs. Excess stress can also have an effect on physical health during the winter. Stress can cause headaches and dizziness, muscle tension and pain, stomach problems, chest pain and affect the immune system. Although stress can be a good thing in immediate situations, activating your fight or flight mode, chronic stress can be damaging. *Stress hormones can weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders such as flu or cold.
The ONS, reports that there were an estimated 23,200 deaths in the winter of 2019 with respiratory diseases being the leading cause. ONS concluded that like many countries, in England and Wales more people die in the winter than in summertime. Many illnesses such as cold and flu can make individuals more susceptible if they are suffering with chronic stress.
It's imperative that we make the health and wellbeing of our workforce a top priority in the winter months and understand how to stay healthy in the winter.
The Doctors Clinic Group offers a full range of services to help you stay fit and healthy and put your health first. Get in touch today with a member of our team to keep your employees healthy this winter. With same-day GP appointments you can take your health into your own hands by booking an appointment when and where you need it.