Smoking is definitely the first thing you should give up if you want to stay healthy. And not only because of lung cancer; smoking also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic bronchitis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis. It may have been cool 100 years ago in the early years of the Tour de France but, unfortunately, we now know that it isn’t compatible with staying healthy.
Get adequate sleep
Sleep affects almost everything that has to do with our health and quality of life, but its effects on our immunity are especially important. Studies have shown that people who sleep 5 hours a day or less have 4x higher chance of getting a cold or a flu than those who regularly sleep more than 8 hours a day. A night of poor sleep also reduces the activity of the Natural killer T cells by 70%. These cells are crucial in fighting against all infections and cancer. Sleep is so important for our immunity that night shifts have been classified as a probable carcinogen in humans.
Research shows that most people need 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep, which means being in the bed for 8 – 9.5 hours because we don’t sleep during the whole time we spend in the bed. Fitbit published data based on millions of nights of sleep of their users and found that the average person sleeps only 6 hours and 38 minutes a night! So, it’s time to start sleeping more. If you want some tips for improving your sleep, check out our previous series on the topic.
Keep riding regularly
Research shows that regular exercise can reduce the risk of inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate regularly. Studies even indicate that a single session of moderate exercise can boost the effectiveness of vaccines in people with compromised immune systems. The researchers recommend aiming for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. That’s often just one long ride for us cyclists! Just remember that regularity is important as we discussed in our previous article.
Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
It may seem complicated to get your diet right with a million of recommendations online. Let’s keep it simple and follow Michael Pollan’s advice: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” For most of us this means adding more veggies and fruits and keeping processed junk food to a minimum. That should be enough to maintain a healthy weight, which is crucial for staying healthy in the long term. If you are interested in specific foods that should help you stay healthy, check out our article on the top 5 foods.
Wash your hands
This point may sound silly, but especially in late winter and early spring when infectious diseases spread the most, the best precaution, apart from having a robust immune system, is washing your hands.