Let’s say it like it is: personal immunity is KEY to good health. And now, more than ever, is a time to check in with our own best practices to stay well as we head into Fall.
As a wellness professional, I am acutely aware of what I put into my body. This sense of agency and awareness keeps me on the right side of health. When COVID hit, I deemed myself essential to my business and continued to work, like I never had before, throughout the pandemic. During that time, I had to initiate a deep trust in my personal best practices in order to Keep Moving.
It is my mission to give my clients that same sense of ownership inside themselves - the intimate connection we each hold with our own body is ultimate wisdom. That process always comes back to employing four common sense pillars: frequent exercise, restful sleep, balanced nutrition, and proper hydration.
I asked one of our wonderful clients, Christie Mulholland (pictured above), who is a doctor of medicine and Assistant Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, her thoughts on how best to keep our immune system pumping. One of the first things she mentioned was “...my roommate and I keep a post-it on our bathroom mirror that says "Exercise, Sleep, Nutrition, Hydration"—because we are so busy, we literally forget otherwise!”
The Case for Exercise
In addition to improving your mental health, a 2019 scientific review in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found that exercise can improve your immune response, lower your risk of illness, and reduce inflammation. Exercise increases circulation of immune cells, making them roam the body at a higher rate and at higher numbers. Moderate exercise (at least 30 minutes most days of the week) is associated with a decreased risk of obesity, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature death. Exercise may also reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Plus, the CDC and WHO encourage regular exercise.
Christie: I take 5-6 DanceBody classes a week and play beach volleyball to mix things up. I was extra motivated to keep my DanceBody LIVE routine during the pandemic lockdowns, because a) I needed it for my sanity after the long days working in the hospital ICU, and b) I believed fitness would help protect me from getting seriously ill from COVID.
Katia: I truly believe in movement as medicine - be it for mental or physical reasons. I often joke that if I didn’t workout daily, I would be on some type of anxiety medication - there’s a grain of truth in there! Even when I’m not at my studios in NYC, I prioritize movement whether that’s walking or finding a local yoga class.
The Case for Sleep
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults sleep seven or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health, although there is a range of what each individual person needs. Sleep benefits the immune system and seems to make people less prone to common colds.
Christie: I need 9 hours of sleep to feel great! If I don’t get it all during the week, I know I can pay back my “sleep debt” on Saturday and Sunday.
Katia: I was always a night owl. I used to thrive on working manically at odd hours and getting lost in rabbit holes late at night. But once I started tracking my sleep with a FitBit, it helped me understand what I was missing out on nightly. I got competitive with myself, and set up better sleep hygiene and turned myself into a productive early bird. Also, HUM Nutrition’s Beauty ZZZZ melatonin and vitamin B6 work wonders for me.
The Case for Nutrition
The most important thing for overall health is to maintain “caloric balance,” meaning if you want to maintain your weight, don’t eat more than you burn off. Low-fat diet, vegetarian diets, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, and the Mediterranean diet are among the most commonly used diets to maintain good health. There is growing evidence that plant-based diets are best for cardiovascular health. Choose a nutritional approach based on what you can stay with long term.
Christie: I use a plant-based organic meal delivery service, Sakara Life, during the week. I have a tiny kitchen and a busy schedule, so this works for my lifestyle right now. Weekends are for pastries, NYC bagels, and pizza.
Katia: I employ the 80/20 rule when it comes to my mindful eating: 80% of the time is clean fuel, 20% of the time is pure fun. I had my years of disordered, restrictive eating, and it messed with body and mind. I stock up on the healthy stuff at home, like quick grabs from Splendid Spoon Protein Bowls. Since COVID, I also take a Multivitamin, Vitamin D, and Zinc daily - without fail.
The Case for Hydration
Immune function and germ-fighting powers are strengthened when your body gets enough water. General recommendations are to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Drink more if you’re exercising. For prolonged exercise (e.g. marathons), make sure to add electrolytes to avoid dangerous complications. Fruits and veggies are naturally full of water and can also help with hydration intake.
Christie: I’m a compulsive water-bottle refiller. I alternate coffee and water, and coffee is a diuretic (makes you pee more) so I drink extra water to make up for that. Also, I like flavor, so I add flavored electrolyte tablets (Nuun Sport) to my water for workouts.
Katia: I struggle to keep myself hydrated, but once I’m dehydrated I can feel myself breaking down. I’m a sparkling water drinker (Soda Stream is the BEST invention ever) as it makes me feel more satiated. And like Christie, when I’m teaching, Nuun Sport tablets are essential and with me always. Although I just tried Cure Hydration and really love their Ruby Riot flavor - I’m a grapefruit fiend.
Following these four common sense pillars each day are important building blocks to stay strong as we shift into the next season. The past few years has caused us all to take stock of what we are actively doing to keep ourselves “well.” This is a time for us to feel powerful and confident in the decisions we each make for our health daily.