While holiday movies will tell you it’s the season for drinking hot chocolate and hitting your least-favorite friend in the head with a rock-filled snowball, real college students know that all winter truly represents is the few months of the year where they’re constantly apologizing for coughing onto strangers.
Yes, the Mid-Atlantic’s oft-demonic winter weather absolutely ravages Temple’s collective immune system each and every year. Classes are slept through, entire weekends are spent indoors memorizing the packaging on Vick’s VapoRub and the “flavors of the season” quickly switch from pumpkin to phlegm.
I used to be one of those people, spending my Decembers breathing loudly out of my mouth in public because my nostrils had stopped working. However, after neglecting my health, gaining 20 pounds and coming down with a horrific, vomit-inducing winter illness during my freshman year, I realized that I needed to take a far more active role in managing my own immune system.
I felt terrible, I looked defeated and I knew I couldn’t continue leaving my home wearing sweatpants and hope for a future wife or job opportunity to spring up.
After two solid years of healthy living, I can confidently tell you that I feel more attractive, I’m way more energetic and I have not had a cold since December 2010. Through a few easy steps, you can join me.
First and foremost, take an hour out of your day and actually get some blood moving. Getting some exercise three to six days a week does wonders for your energy level and immune system. It really doesn’t matter what you do in the gym exactly, as long as it lasts from 20 to 40 minutes and you’re sweating profusely by the time you finish. Short, intense bursts of exercise a few times a week are really all that you need. I tend to combine weightlifting, biking and yoga in a given week, for example. Any longer than 40 minutes, and your stress hormones begin to shoot up and you’ll tire yourself out even more. Exercise increases your body’s level of leukocytes, which kick germs out of your bloodstream like Chris Rock in “Osmosis Jones.” Keep your body strong, and you’ll keep the cold from wearing you down.
Along with exercise, college kids seemingly take pride in neglecting their sleep habits as well. Without rest, you’d be stunned at how poorly your body handles everyday activities, such as discussing the daily barometric pressure with strangers or not dying of meningitis. Your immune system spends far more time repairing itself and stomping out germs during sleep than during your waking hours. Get six to eight hours a night, and you’ll cut your sick days in half, or away entirely. There is nothing “tough” about “totally never sleeping, dude.” Quit pretending that’s working for you.
Lastly, some slight diet tweaks are probably in order to keep your lungs free of fluid this winter.
Science pretty much agrees that you need a standard level of nutrients every day to stay healthy, so start taking a basic multivitamin each morning just to make sure your immune system has enough nutrients to run smoothly. Maxi’s cheesecake-taco meat-squirrel pelt slices may be delicious, but they probably don’t have enough vitamin C in them to make sure that your white blood cells survive the winter, or enough vitamin D to properly combat seasonal depression.
Also: quit drinking soda. Too much sugar causes your mood to spike and crash constantly, destroys your body’s ability to fight off bacteria and can directly lead to diabetes, which is virtually drinking so much sugar that it actively begins poisoning you. You’ll get out of your body what you put into it.
While I can’t promise that following this plan will absolutely keep you out of the hospital this winter, I can promise slowly working this routine into your daily life will sure as hell help you feel happier, stronger, better looking and more motivated as the outdoors become increasingly unbearable. Personally, anything that I’ve “sacrificed,” like Pepsi and a whopping 45 minutes away from cable television, to live healthier has been completely worth the trade-off.
Now get some sleep, please. I’m tired of getting sneezed on.
Jerry Iannelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.