During the cold months we often adopt new habits and unwittingly sabotage the immune system, making illness far more likely. As we've covered, those coughs, sneezes, and sniffles can really strain the pelvic floor and often cause symptoms to flare.
Here are a few ways that you might be hurting your body’s ability to fight off a cold or the flu, and what you can do about it!
We all know we should be exercising regularly, but winter makes it so hard! We don’t want to go out in the chilly weather or head to gym when it gets dark so early. Swimsuit season is months away. Many of our mammalian cousins simply hibernate through the entire winter, and we feel that same urge. However, this tendency also hurts our immune system.
Research has shown that exercising for just thirty minutes each day can cut the number of sick days in half!
"I really don't think I need buns of steel. I'd be happier with buns of cinnamon." - Ellen DeGeneres
Suggestion – Use winter to find a new activity or exercise. Yoga can be a great habit you can pick up, exercising in the comfort of your own home. As a bonus, some of the yoga positions are also great for the pelvic floor and stretching out the muscles that lead to the pelvis. You can also be more deliberate about walking; take a brisk stroll at lunch to get your blood pumping and your immune system back on track.
Winter can make maintaining our social connections difficult. Maybe it’s more difficult to drive to an event, so you decide to stay home. That Happy Hour gathering from work is a little less likely to happen when it’s already dark out and too chilly to enjoy the outdoor patio at your favorite restaurant. Connections with others aren’t just associated with happiness; they also lead to lower stress and improved immune system function.
Sometimes we think of hanging out with friends as a place where we can pick up germs, but researchers have found that individuals with stronger social connections are four times better at fighting off illness than those who are more isolated.
Sometimes me think, ‘What is friend?’ Then me say, ‘Friend is someone to share the last cookie with.’ - Cookie Monster
Suggestion – Fight the urge to stay at home when you get an invite from a friend or family member; you’ll likely enjoy it when you get there, and even if you don’t, you might save yourself from sitting on the couch, watching Friends reruns with a thermometer in your mouth!
Why So Serious?
What if laughter really is the best medicine? We wouldn’t go that far, but researchers have found that simply watching a funny video was associated with an increase in immune function. We know that laughter helps relieve stress and releases endorphins, giving a sense of well-being and even relieving pain.
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” – Mark Twain
Suggestion – With all the hilarious things online, there’s really no excuse not to laugh! Take five minutes to watch a video of Snoop Dogg narrating the activities of wild animals, cats tackling toddlers, or whatever this is.
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity physical therapy, Orange County's premier pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. One of only 270 PTs to be board-certified in the pelvic floor, and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Nicole is the author of the acclaimed and best-selling book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution (2016). She is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Chapman University. The PelvicSanity blog focuses on presenting practical, positive information to help patients beyond the walls of Nicole's clinic.