It’s officially November! A time filled with football and parades, Thanksgiving traditions, and precious family time. Unfortunately, however, this is also the time of year when the flu starts to make its rounds.
As temperatures continue to drop, the flu becomes easier to contract. Due to winter’s cold temperatures and low humidity, the influenza virus is able to survive longer, hold on tighter, and spread quicker, which is why winter has gained the popular label of “flu season.”
But, if you’re often at the YMCA, don’t let the fear of the flu keep you from sticking to your exercise schedule this year! There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from the influenza virus and stay healthy during flu season, so that you don’t have to think twice about hitting up the gym.
Keep up your YMCA routine with these five ways to stay healthy during flu season!
1. Wipe down equipment before and after use.
There are lots of benefits that come with working out at the Y, including access to personal trainers, group classes, a wide array of machines, and the motivation that comes from working out with others. However, in a large gym setting, you also need to practice good hygiene.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all witnessed someone using a piece of YMCA equipment and walking away without wiping it down afterwards. If we’re really honest, we might even own up to having done it ourselves a time or two. In the height of flu season, be sure that you not only wipe down all pieces of Y equipment after you use them, but also before for good measure.
The flu, like most viruses, is a germ that spreads through direct contact. So, to keep yourself and others healthy during flu season, take care to sanitize all pieces of equipment thoroughly before and after using them—including weight, mats, and machines.
2. Wash your hands frequently.
One of the most important ways to say healthy during flu season is by washing your hands before and after visiting the YMCA. Ever since you were little, it’s probably been ingrained in your head to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to avoid spreading germs. During the winter, when germs thrive in the cold conditions, it’s even more important to be sure you’re following this vital step in your hygiene routine to avoid the flu.
This time of year, running noses, coughing, and sneezing are extremely common. While you can’t really avoid these things, you can wash your hands. Washing your hands not only reduces your chances of diarrheal illness by almost 60%; it also reduces the spread of the flu by up to 50%.
Whenever you find yourself in a place with a lot of foot traffic, it’s good practice to wash your hands frequently to kill any germs you come into contact with. The Y is no exception! Washing your hands both before and after your workout is one way that you can protect yourself from the flu this winter.
3. Don’t send sick kids to YMCA daycare or before- and after-school care.
While adults may face their fair share of germs and illnesses, young children are at an even higher risk of contracting the influenza virus during flu season as compared to their parents or older siblings. Not only are children exposed to more germs in daycare and before- and after-school care settings; their underdeveloped immune systems also make it harder for their bodies to fight against the virus once they come into contact with it. For these reasons, one important way to help the whole family stay healthy during flu season is to keep your kids at home (not at the Y!) if they are feeling even slightly sick.
Not only will less exposure help your child recover from the flu quicker; it’ll also help protect the other kids who attend YMCA daycare or before- and after-school care from getting sick as well. Because flu vaccinations are currently not available for infants or children under the age of 6 months, it’s important to monitor your child’s health this flu season for both their own good and the good of others.
4. Stay hydrated.
As you may already know, the influenza virus is predominantly an airborne ailment. So, standing anywhere from 3 to 6 feet from someone who is infected automatically puts you at risk of breathing in the virus and contracting the flu. If you often go to the YMCA to work out, then this can be even more of a concern for you. However, according to recent research, drinking large amounts of water may be one of the most effective ways to stay healthy during flu season and ward off airborne germs.
According to Dr. Lewis, who performed a study over the relationship between water intake and flu prevention, hydration is essential in preventing the virus from attacking your system. Water is a vital element for all bodily functions in fighting the flu, but most importantly in keeping the lining of the nose moist.
“The first line of defense (against the flu) is the mucous membrane in the nose,” says Lewis. “This acts like a sticky flypaper to trap things like dust, dirt, and bacteria and prevent them from getting to the lungs. If you are dehydrated, the mucous membrane will dry out. When this happens, it is half as effective (in its defense).”
Drinking at least 8 cups of water a day will help you avoid the flu, let your body recover after workouts, and keep your body running efficiently throughout the winter season.
5. Fuel your body properly.
Food is fuel for your body, which is why eating a diet rich in vitamins is one of the best ways to stay healthy during flu season. Fueling your body properly before and after workouts with foods and vitamins that boost your immune system will help your body fend off the flu virus all winter long.
A good rule of thumb for eating a vitamin-rich diet is to make sure your meals are colorful. The various fruits and vegetables that are available this time of year do wonders in boosting vitamin levels and helping your body fight against flu and cold symptoms. The more red, greens, purples, and oranges you can squeeze onto your dinner plate, the better!
Vitamins C and D in particular are amazing in helping your body fight off the flu. You can ingest these vitamins through foods such as fish, eggs, broccoli, and kale, or from weekly supplementation. They’re even found in many pre- and post-workout foods that charge your body throughout your workout and help you recover quickly. Boosting up on vitamin-rich foods is great for fueling exercise and is one of the ways that you can ward off the flu this winter.
With flu season underway, it’s easy to let the fear of getting the virus keep you from the YMCA. However, with these five easy tips, you can protect yourself from sickness and stay healthy all winter long so you won’t miss a beat in your workout routine!
With two locations in Lafayette, Indiana, the Lafayette Family YMCA is a community committed to healthy living and social responsibility. For more fitness tips and to stay up to date about YMCA events, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, or visit our website.