Five Steps to Maximum Immunity

WINTER HEALTH ISN'T just a roll of the dice, says David Nieman, a professor of exercise science at Appalachian State University and co-author of the book
Nutrition and Exercise Immunology. "If you minimize the known risk factors for cold and flu, you can drastically reduce your chances of getting sick," he states. Here are five proven ways to do just that.

1 GET OUT AND PLAY
Exercise strengthens the immune system by increasing the circulation of your natural "killer cells" (relax, they're your friends), part of the battalion of the immune cells that ward off sickness. In one study, a group of subjects who walked 45 minutes a day, five days a week, suffered half the number of infections as a control group that sat around and did nothing.
2 DON'T RELY ON IMMUNE-BOOSTING SUPPLEMENTS
The immune system is dependent on nutrients, including antioxidant vitamins such as C and E and minerals such as zinc. Nieman suggests obtaining these nutrients from natural foods, which contain phytochemicals that also support immunity and are not present in supplements. The effectiveness of herbs like green tea still awaits conclusive evidence, but some studies and testimonies suggest they can be helpful too.

3 GO TO BED
Short-term and long-term sleep deprivation reduce the activity of interleukins, groups of molecules that help buttress the immune system. Let nothing stand in the way of your eight hours.

4 ENGAGE IN GERM WARFARE
Airborne germs are not the leading cause of infection—transmission is most often self-inflicted by touching common objects, like a water fountain, and then touching your face. Try to avoid grabbing a doorknob and then chomping your fingernails. Also, wash your hands frequently. A lot to ask, we know, but
better to be a little anal than a lot ill.

5 GET A FLU SHOT
Here's an immunity boost you can quantify: Flu vaccinations are 85 percent effective, and even when they're not, they tend to result in milder infections. Get one in October.

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