10 Five-Minute Ideas for Boosting Your Immune System
Find quick ways to lend your immune system a helping hand.
The current pandemic has drawn everyone’s attention to our health as we seek to reduce our contact with germs and strengthen our bodies’ defenses against the virus. Taking precautions against the virus by wearing face masks outside and following shelter-in-place orders are important parts of fighting this virus on a public level, but your immune system is your body’s natural defense against illnesses like COVID-19. Thankfully, you can help your immune system do its job more effectively, even if you’re busy trying to juggle working remotely and caring for your kids.
Here are 10 ways to boost your immune system in five minutes.
1. Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
Even if you’re staying at home, limiting the bacteria making its way into your system decreases your likelihood of getting sick and ensures your body is primed to fight against the bacteria that do make it in. In addition to washing your hands after using the bathroom, you should wash them before and after touching food, after you handle trash or a similarly dirty object, after you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose, and any time you return from a public area. While hand sanitizer is a good alternative when washing your hands isn’t an option, soap and water is the best way to clean your hands and should be your go-to method of removing germs.
2. Do a lot of cleaning.
Sanitizing surfaces in your house can go a long way toward limiting your contact with germs. Sanitize objects you don’t often think to clean and wipe down food prep areas and common-use objects like remotes and doorknobs regularly. When you come home from being out in public, sanitize objects like your phone and keys; you can’t escape touching these objects frequently while you’re in public, so eliminating potentially harmful germs on the surface of these objects keeps them out of your home.
3. Fit in five-minute bursts of intense exercise.
Exercise boosts your immune system and your mood while decreasing obesity, depression, and anxiety, so it’s a worthwhile investment in your health. Exercising 30 minutes every day might seem like a stretch for your schedule, especially if your kids are home from school; instead, fit in five-minute bursts of intense exercise. You can do this by playing tag with your kids, dancing around the house, doing jumping jacks, or jogging in place while you brush and floss your teeth. You can even set aside five minutes while your kids are asleep to complete a high-intensity workout that includes exercises like burpees, lunges, and pushups. It’s easy to fit a few of these five-minute activities into any daily schedule, and doing so regularly provides the same immune-boosting benefits as longer, low-intensity workouts.
4. Step outside for a few minutes.
While shelter-in-place rules remain in effect, try to venture into your yard and soak up a little sun for a few minutes each day. Hopefully, this will help you feel less stressed and cooped up, but it’ll also encourage your body to produce vitamin D, which plays a major role in your immune function. Low vitamin D levels make you more vulnerable to getting sick and are particularly linked to an increased risk of respiratory diseases, so it’s essential to make sure you’re getting enough of it.
5. Focus on your oral health.
The bacteria that cause cavities and periodontitis don’t stay isolated in your mouth; they can wind up in your digestive tract or even your bloodstream, causing many short- and long-term health issues. The bacteria can disrupt your gut microbiome, which plays an important role in your immune system, can impact the function of your mitochondria, increases your chances of infection, and increases your risk of future issues like heart disease. As a result, taking the time to brush and floss your teeth regularly keeps oral bacteria in check; you should brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day and floss at least once a day.
6. Reduce your stress levels.
Stress takes an emotional and mental toll, but it takes a physical toll as well by suppressing your immune system and making you more vulnerable to illness. Reducing your stress levels helps your immune system function at its best, so try to relax and decompress a little each day. Spend five minutes talking to a friend on the phone, meditating, or reading—whatever works for you.
7. Prepare a healthy snack.
While the added sugar in processed snacks can have short-term negative effects on your immune system, healthy snacks give your body—including your immune system—the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly. Plus, they’re incredibly easy to put together! All you have to do is wash an apple, peel an orange or banana, or cut up a little celery, making them nearly as quick as many processed foods. As an added bonus, cutting down on sugary, processed snacks in favor of fruits and vegetables is also beneficial for your oral health.
8. Enlist help from good bacteria.
Your gastrointestinal tract is one of your immune system’s major hubs, but it’s also home to millions of beneficial bacteria, including bacteria that boost your immune system. Consuming prebiotics and probiotics helps keep these good bacteria healthy, supporting your immune system in the process. Since supplements aren’t as highly regulated as prescriptions, it’s best to get these nutrients from foods first; oats, barley, apples, and bananas are good sources of prebiotics, while sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi are all great sources of probiotics. If you’re still interested in taking supplements, discuss the possibility with your doctor beforehand.
9. Take daily multivitamins.
Vitamin C is famous for its vital role in your immune health, but it’s also important to get plenty of vitamins A, B6, D, and E if you want to give your immune system a boost. You should do your best to get these vitamins through your diet, but it’s also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin; this ensures that your body has all the nutrients it needs to mount a defense against invaders.
10. Say no to that extra glass of wine.
Although alcohol sales have soared since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol can actually harm your immune system. It disrupts the bacteria in your gut that support your immune system and may even harm the immune cells lining your intestines, so you should always drink in moderation. According to experts, the safe limit is one drink per day for women and two per day for men; any more runs the risk of damaging your immune system and leaving you vulnerable to disease. So saying no to an extra glass of wine or bottle of beer will keep your immune system healthy, allowing it to continue protecting you against illnesses.
Your immune system keeps you healthy throughout the year, but in times like this, it’s wise to ensure you’re giving your body the resources and support it needs to function as effectively as possible. Once life has returned to normal, you may even find that you have formed a few easy, healthy habits that help you feel healthier and happier year-round.