‘Tis the season of horrible illness. I should know. I spent the past week suffering from high fever, bodily aches and pains, and an extraordinarily persistent headache, plus an attitude of doom and gloom to go with it. This got me wondering whether there was anything I could have done to keep from falling sick in the first place. According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are some steps you can take towards a healthy immune system:
- Don’t smoke.
Everyone knows about smoking and lung cancer. Smoking hasn’t been cool since Grease. Besides, paying to kill yourself slowly and painfully is just weird and sad. Smoking is the leading cause of death in developed countries, and according to the paper linked to here, the belief that it prevents weight gain may be overly simplistic.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly.
But how much is enough? Harvard Medical School has some ideas to help you figure out what’s right for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Here is where it gets slightly controversial: Harvard Health Publishing links to a BMI table, where you can match your weight to your height, and figure out whether your weight is within the normal range. They admit that BMI isn’t an assessment of body fat, but that in lieu of a cheaper means to measure body fat, it’s a “reasonable alternative.”
But according to BMI, writes Samantha Brennan in Fit, Fat and What’s Wrong With BMI, all of these gold medallists from the 2004 Olympics are obese:
(This image is taken from the photography project of Howard Schatz and Ornstein, on the different bodies of Olympic athletes.) The truth is, BMI doesn’t tell you anything useful. A blunt instrument like BMI, much like standard practice of eyeballing a person and pronouncing them skinny or fat, harms everybody. It harms skinny, un-fit people like me, by falsely giving us the impression that there’s nothing the matter with our physical health. It harms fat, active people by making incorrect assumptions about their lifestyles. Brennan writes about how despite her nutritious, vegetarian diet and varied forms of rigorous exercise, she is classified as obese, according to her BMI. Weight loss simply may not be an achievable goal for everyone.
Carrie Dennett, a nutritionist and dietician, writes, “The four crucial habits [which resulted in increased life expectancy, irrespective of weight] are eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, exercising at least three times per week, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking.”
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Try to minimize stress.
Much easier said than done, but not impossible. Regulating your breathing can help clear your head, and allow you to regain the feeling of control. This gif might help, though it does go a little fast for me: