Most Decembers come packed with things to look forward to—that bubbly season, before the New Year’s resolutions kick in, filled with holiday parties and time with family and friends. I don’t have to tell you why that’s not what’s happening this year. What’s more, many of the strange bright spots of the pandemic year—park workouts, sidewalk drinks—are getting much less pleasant as it gets steadily darker and colder. Virus cases are spiking around the country, with no real end in sight. The vaccine is on the way, but this winter is frankly going to be a bit of a grind.
You can’t control any of that—but there is still a lot you can do to get through it in good health, both physical or mental. We connected with a pair of health and fitness experts to get four recommendations.
1. Get the flu shot.
It’s not the vaccine you want, but it’s the one you need right now. Maybe you’re thinking, with everything you’re doing to stop the spread of COVID, that a flu shot isn’t necessary. You’d be wrong! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone over the age of 6 months old should get one, especially this year.
“With COVID-19 cases surging around the country you need to protect yourself from as many other illnesses as possible,” says James N. Robinson, MD, a physician at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery. “Since most hospitals around the country run at or near capacity during flu season as it is, it’s important to do our part to keep resources available to treat coronavirus patients.”
Hear that? Use the CDC’s tool to find a place and go get the shot—it’s not too late.
2. Firm up your at-home fitness situation.
But maybe getting on the at-home fitness train hasn’t been a top priority— According to Polly de Mille, the director of the Tisch Sports Performance Center at HSS, it should be. “Besides just the physical benefits of getting active,” she says, “there are also very clear psychological benefits.”
To ensure that the fitness actually happens, the most important thing de Mille recommends making your set-up as easy and seamless as possible. That includes snagging the tools you need to incorporate regular flexibility, cardio, and strength work into the mix. (Helpfully, this stuff becoming easier to find after months of supply chain disruptions.)
So, if you’re going to need resistance bands, a few dumbbells, and a stretching strap, treat yourself and get that stuff now. “You don’t need to spend a ton of money, she says. But do what you can to make it seamless: “Remove as many barriers as possible.”
3. Consider a Vitamin D Supplement.
It’s important to try to get as many of your recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals from your diet—eating a well-rounded diet of whole foods has so many holistic benefits that can’t just be summed up with a list of micronutrients.
But Robinson says there’s nothing wrong with reaching for supplements in a strategic way to boost your overall wellbeing come December through March, if need be. In particular, he stresses the importance of vitamin D.
“Vitamin D doesn’t occur in our diet naturally, although some milk and cereals are fortified with it,” he says. “The only way we get Vitamin D naturally is from the sun. Of course, during the winter months, we get less sunlight, and Vitamin D deficiency is very common.”