Staying Healthy This Fall and Winter: Tips from Public Health Experts
This year has been challenging on many levels, including staying healthy amid a global pandemic that has limited where, when and how we can get out of our homes to participate in healthy activities. With that in mind, we can do a number of things this fall and winter to maintain and improve our health.
Sallie Beth Johnson, Ph.D., chair of the Radford University Carilion (RUC) Department of Public Health and Healthcare Leadership, and program director and assistant professor in the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and Bachelor of Science in Public Health programs, said that the Radford University “Slow the Spread. Do the Five.” tips are an excellent place to start. Those tips are:
- wash your hands,
- wear a mask,
- avoid touching your face,
- maintain physical distancing and
- stay home if you feel sick.
All of these practices will protect you and everyone around you from COVID-19 and illnesses that can spread in the fall and winter months when we spend more time indoors and around other people.
Johnson said that engaging in a healthy lifestyle will also mitigate illness and increase health this time of year.
“Healthy lifestyles, such as staying active, eating a balanced diet rich with fruits and vegetables, quitting tobacco use including vaping, eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke, getting adequate rest and taking care of our mental health, are immune-strengthening strategies and makes us more resilient during this challenging time,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that quitting smoking and vaping is also a great way to improve health. The American Cancer Society offers tobacco and vape users access to resources that will help them quit, taking the first important step toward a healthier life and a reduced cancer risk. More information is available at https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/ or by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
In addition, Meagan Helmick, Ph.D., assistant professor in the RUC public health program, recommended getting a flu shot.
“A flu shot can be the barrier that keeps you from getting sick at a time when you want your immune system to be as strong as possible,” Helmick said. “Avoiding the flu is especially important this year as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The healthier you are, the less chance you have of a virus impacting you.”
Helmick said that reduced daylight could also affect people this time of year. She recommends looking for free online videos that can help people stay active from home even when they can’t get outside, as well as finding activities to enjoy and commit time to regularly to stimulate mental health.
Finally, Helmick suggests staying hydrated as the temperatures cool outside.
Thomas S. Castor, PhD, MA, CHES®, assistant professor in the RUC Public Health Program, suggests limiting alcohol consumption, reducing screen time by taking frequent breaks away from the computer and monitoring the amount of blue light exposure before bedtime to ensure quality sleep patterns and routines.
Johnson said that all of these tips are important reminders about how we can take care of ourselves, leading to healthier communities overall in the fall and winter. She notes that students in the public health program at RUC are continually developing, implementing and evaluating interventions that help individuals, families and their communities maximize and maintain healthy lifestyles. Through the public health program, students learn to become health education specialists who will serve as experts and leaders in their communities for years to come.
You can learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Public Health at RUC by visiting www.radford.edu/ruc-public-health.