As we head into winter and see a bit less of the sun and feel the chill of cold mornings and evenings, it’s important to keep your health at optimal levels to keep sickness and injury at bay. Here are my top ten tips for staying healthy and fit this winter:

1. Keep stress levels down

High levels of stress can easily lead to poor eating, drinking and sleeping habits, which will negatively affect your health. Being stressed also reduces the body’s ability to fight off antigens and makes us more susceptible to infections. Do what you can to keep your brain active and your mind content as the winter nights draw in.

2. Drink plenty of water

It might be tempting to drink less water in winter because of the drop in temperature, but in really cold weather you actually need to consume more water than normal and at the first sign of infection, you’ll certainly need to drink to stay hydrated. If you find the thought of drinking cold water in cold temperatures a bit off-putting, consider freshly boiled water, with lemon juice and honey instead.

3. Stretch and move

Make stretching a daily habit if you haven’t already. Colder temperatures mean tight, cold muscles and a reduction in your mobility. By stretching main muscle groups in your back, legs and arms in the mornings and evenings, you will keep joints supple, release tension and improve your flexibility – leading to better mobility, greater range of motion and a reduced risk of injury in the future.

4. Sleep well

Experts say it’s important to get between 7-9 hours’ sleep per night throughout the year, as sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risks of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. In winter, reduced sunlight and differing room temperatures can often lead us to feel tired during the daytime and then to struggle to sleep well at night. Everyone is different but try to keep your body and mind active during the day and try to make conditions suitable for you to sleep well at night

5. Warm up and warm down when exercising

If you imagine your muscles are like rubber bands, then consider stretching a rubber band across a long distance very quickly. Chances are it will not withstand the pressure. But stretch it slowly over the same distance and you might find it manages the stress very well. Now imagine how the rubber band will perform if you’ve had it in the freezer for a few hours. The risk of injury from failing to warm up and warm down adequately increases in winter when muscles are cold.

6. Eat a healthy diet

This might seem like a ‘no brainer’, but the regular consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in winter might just help keep your body in good working order and prevent nasty infections from laying you low. Reduced sunlight and low temperatures might increase the temptation to binge on sugary treats or savoury snacks, but your body won’t thank you.

7. Have a good posture at work

We all like to get snug and lounge around during cold, wintery days but posture is important in our overall health and wellbeing and we should fight the urge to slouch, especially during long periods at work. It is pretty common for a niggling back ache or neck pain to snowball into other health issues, so maintain good posture whenever you can.

8. Dress appropriately when out and about

Without wanting to sound like an overly-protective parent (I’m sure you can dress yourself before leaving the house!), this has more to do with appropriate footwear, as well as clothing when the weather deteriorates. I commonly treat patients who have attempted exercise in poorly fitting or inappropriate shoes and suffered ankle and leg injuries as a result. Do yourself a favour and think about the conditions and what is appropriate to wear on your feet.

9. Stay active when indoors

Cold, wet and windy weather forces most of us indoors for longer periods than in summer, but this shouldn’t mean we become less active or exercise less. There are loads of exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home, or inside sports centres, so don’t let inclement weather be an excuse for exercising less.

10. 20mins natural light per day

Winter in Sydney might mean temperatures drop and the sun shines a bit less than in summer months, but there is still plenty of daylight to step out into and what’s more, doing so is good for you! Just 20mins of daylight and fresh air per day helps to boost your metabolism and circulatory systems and, in turn, supports your immune system. So don’t stay cooped up over winter, get out and about, you’ll feel better for it!

Free extra tip, Take joint care supplements

There is a huge and potentially bewildering range of joint care supplements on the market, all of which claim to relieve joint pain. The key thing to consider though is that taking supplements alone will not make your joint pain disappear in the long term. They should be used as a temporary relief or as part of a wider treatment approach. The most common supplements include glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fish oil, such as cod liver oil. Calcium and Vitamin D are also known for keeping bones healthy and preventing osteoporosis. Ask your health professional what they recommend for your specific needs.

For many of you, following the above tips will help to keep those aches and pains at bay and you’ll make it through winter unscathed. For others, the helping hands and treatment plan of an osteopath could help to get you fighting fit again. If you’re suffering from muscular tightness or stiffness in your joints, or perhaps inclement weather has led to a sporting injury, give the Willow Clinic a call and arrange a consultation with Dr Vanessa Fisher.