10 ways to winter-proof your health

Jane Murphy / 27 September 2017

Winter's nearly here – so it's time to get proactive. Discover what you can do right now to boost your immunity and protect your health when it's cold.



1. Get a flu jab

Over-65s are also entitled to a free one-off pneumococcal vaccine, which gives life-long protection against pneumonia.

This year's flu season could well be the worst in a while if a particularly virulent strain of the virus reaches the UK, experts have warned.

The good news? The flu vaccine is the best protection available – so make sure you book yours today. If you'll be 65 or over on March 31 2018, or have an underlying condition such as asthma, you're eligible for a free vaccine through your GP surgery. Otherwise, pharmacies – including Boots, Lloyds and Superdrug – offer a vaccination service for a small fee.

Over-65s are also entitled to a free one-off pneumococcal vaccine, which gives life-long protection against pneumonia.

Find out more about how to get your flu jab

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2. Take echinacea

Taking three daily doses of this herbal remedy reduces the combined number and duration of colds by an average 26 per cent after four months, according to a Cardiff University study.

Learn more about echinacea

3. Join a choir

Singing in a choir can have numerous health benefits, including improving heart and lung function, boosting immunity and lifting your mood, say researchers at the University of London. Another plus? Join your local choir now, and you're guaranteed a prime seat at this year's carol concert.

How music helps your health

4. Stop ignoring that damp patch

As temperatures drop, any damp or mould in your home is only going to get worse – putting you at greater risk of allergies, colds and chest infections throughout the winter. So make it a priority to find and fix the source of the excess moisture. It might be a leaking pipe, roof damage or condensation, for example. You can then deter further problems by keeping your home warm and well-insulated, using the extractor fan in the bathroom, and improving ventilation by opening bedroom windows for 15 minutes each morning.

Is your home making you ill?

Dealing with the issue of damp

5. Start your Christmas shopping

You know that hectic two-week period in December when you rush round trying to buy, write and send cards and presents to pretty much everyone you know? You could avoid all the stress, headaches and germ-ridden crowds if you simply get started now, and do a little more each week. Go on – you know it makes sense!

Save money by planning Christmas early

6. Pour yourself a glass of water...

...and then pour another one. It's much harder to remember to drink enough water during cold weather, but staying hydrated is vital for good health all year round.

Aside from flushing out toxins and fighting off colds and bugs, regularly sipping water can reduce the severity of headaches, say researchers at the University of Maastricht.

It can also stop you overeating: people who drink the most water consume fewer total calories and take in less fat, sugar, salt and cholesterol, according to a study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

Strategies for staying hydrated

7. Top up your vitamin D

Vitamin D also protects against acute respiratory infections

During the summer, most of us should be able to get all the vitamin D we need from sunlight – but from October to March, that becomes a little trickier. So now could be a good time to start taking a daily supplement – especially as recent research suggests vitamin D may have benefits beyond boosting bone and muscle health. It also protects against acute respiratory infections, including cold and flu, according to a University of London study.

10 ways to boost your vitamin D levels

8. Sign up for a yoga class

Among its many benefits, yoga can improve balance and help prevent falls – something you'll be particularly glad of when pavements are icy. And there's still time to boost your balance before this year's cold spell. Significant improvements can be seen in balance and mobility as a result of relatively short yoga courses, say researchers at the University of Sydney.

Read our falls guide for more tips on staying steady

9. Buy some new houseplants

Yes, they look good and can lift your mood in winter – but that's not the only reason we're suggesting you dress up your home with houseplants. Some well-chosen greenery can improve indoor air quality by absorbing airborne pollutants that might otherwise cause respiratory infections, say researchers at the State University of New York. Among the best? Spider plants and common ivy are adept at removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air.

Learn more about how houseplants help purify the air in your home

10. Invest in new walking boots

Cold weather is no excuse to stay cooped up indoors all day. Make a pledge now to enjoy plenty of winter walks – and make sure you've got the right footwear to see you through to springtime.

Need more persuading? A brisk hour-long daily walk is enough to eliminate the increased risk of early death associated with sitting for more than eight hours per day, say researchers at the University of Cambridge.

10 healthy reasons to go for a winter walk

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.