Originally written with collaboratively by Kimberly Cripps, former SDSU Extension Family & Community Health Field Specialist, and Lindsey Syltie, former SDSU Extension Better Choices, Better Health Program Assistant.
Have you ever thought about how your daily routine or health habits affect your overall health? Have you been told that making time for those little things such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, and stress management, for example, can all affect more than one aspect of your life?
Our daily routines or habits are all interlinked and can affect our overall health. Similar to a domino effect, small things can build on themselves unless we choose to break the cycle. For example, the sleep you are lacking today can be a result of stress brought on by yesterday's events. The next day builds on the days prior when you didn't have time to make supper and there are no leftovers to bring to work resulting in eating out instead. Does this sequence sound familiar? You may be asking; what does this have to do with my overall health? Let's dive in to how these habits are linked together to affect multiple aspects of your life.
What is Immunity? What does an Immune System Do?
There are many different factors that contribute to overall health. Some may be medically diagnosed conditions, and some can be small lifestyle choices. Something that can be affected by medical conditions or lifestyle choices is our immune system. The job our immune system plays is to prevent or limit the infection in our bodies. When we choose to deprive our immune system of the necessary essentials for it to do its job, we suffer.
Our bodies have little warriors inside called white blood cells that help keep us healthy. They need adequate nutrition so they can perform at their best. When the body is getting proper nutrition, it can fight off invaders that make us sick. Not only does a healthy diet support our immune system, it also directly affects how the mind and body perform. Other areas of our lifestyle choices also affect the level our immune system functions at. Keeping a healthy link between all these areas benefits our daily lives.
Immune Boosting Tips
Nutrition plays a huge role in how our immune system functions. When your body is deprived of essential nutrients, it isn't performing at its highest level.
- Goal to work toward: Stay consistent with balanced meals.
- See our Nutrition page for more information.
Physical Activity is another key component in keeping our immune system healthy. Did you know those who perform regular moderate exercise cut their upper respiratory infections in half? Exercise also increases circulation, improve cardiovascular health, blood pressure, decreases stress, and helps to control body weight.
- Goal to work toward: Incorporate regular physical activity.
- Visit our Physical Activity page for a variety of information.
Sleep is what your body needs to repair and restore itself. Getting enough high-quality sleep is just as important as proper nutrition and physical activity is for your body. Sleep is the body's way to repair cells and tissues. Did you know those who averaged less than six hours of sleep per night were three times more likely to get sick? Not only is sleep important for proper immune function, it also plays a huge role in the hormone levels in your body and how your body responds to stress.
- Goal to work toward: Aim for healthy sleep hygiene practices
- See this article for tips on sleep and mental mest.
Stress is normal to experience, but too much stress can be harmful. The effects of too much stress accumulate and can make you more susceptible to illnesses and diseases. When your body is triggered by stress it reacts by causing chemical reactions. These take the power away from the immune system and weaken it. Being aware of daily stressors is important and can help you manage your stress in a healthier way which will help break the cycle.
- Goal to work toward: Identify stressors and find your management techniques.
- Read Impact of Chronic Stress for more information and management ideas.
What if one of the links in the chain of habits was modified for the better? Carve time for the habits that support you. It may be going to bed earlier that leads to a more productive and less stressful day. Add in some exercise and a pre-planned healthy meal to that equation and it would be a day your body would thank you for!
- Goal to work toward: Pick an area to improve and assess your results
- Resource: See this Meal Planning article for more information.
Make Change Small & SMART
Looking to start a change? Assess your daily routine and see where your chain may have a kink. One small SMART change could make a huge difference in improving your overall health and immune system function.
- S - Specific: What will be accomplished? What small action will you take?
- M - Measurable: How much? Where? When?
- A - Achievable: Is my goal doable? Do I have the necessary resources?
- R - Relevant: Why is the result of my goal so important?
- T - Timely: What is the timeframe for accomplishing my goal?
Our immune system is important for our body to be able to defend itself against Covid-19. Our nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and stress work together to strengthen or weaken our immune system. What healthy habit can you add to your routine?