As the weather cools off, cold season is soon to follow.  In many families, a cold brought home is often passed from one member to the next resulting in weeks of discomfort and empty tissue boxes.  Many kids are exposed to the same viruses at school and daycare, but only a fraction of them get sick.  You can substancially cut down on the number of colds that wreak havoc on your family’s health by boosting everyone’s immune system.  When people think about boosting their immunities, they often think of adding supplements, but before you start dolling out vitamins disguised as candy consider cheaper, more effective methods.

Exercise Everyday: Exercise provides so many health benefits it’s no surprise that it improves your immune response. Moderate exercise improves circulation, enabling immune cells to attack viruses and bacteria more quickly. In addition, exercise temporarily increases the body’s production of certain immune cells. These positive effects usually return to normal within a few hours of exercise, but there is a way to maintain these benefits long-term. You guessed it, daily exercise results in an overall stronger immune system and fewer upper respiratory illnesses.  Many parents feel that soccer practice twice a week is enough exercise for kids, but everyone, reguardless of age, needs at least 30 minutes of activity everyday.

Get More Sleep: Lack of sleep depresses the immune system.  This is usually more of a problem for parents than their kids.  We all have too much to do and too little time to do it, but not getting enough ZZZ’s is the number one way to be less productive. The average American gets about 6 hours per night, but needs 8-9 hours of sleep. If you need a few reasons to make sleep more of a priority, studies show that well rested people are happier, make better decisions, are more productive and get sick less often.

Eat Better:  A family that doesn’t share a salad together, shares a Kleenex box together.  Adults and teens need 9 servings of produce a day.  Serving sizes are smaller for children.  Kids aged 9-12 need potions half the adult size and kids under eight years of age need about a third of the produce you eat in a day.  If you aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables, your immune system is not as strong as a well feed one.  There is no substitute for real food.  Nutrients obtained from whole foods are superior at building a robust immune system than the synthetic vitamins found in supplements.

During cold season, be sure everyone washes their hands often.  Regular soap is all you need.  Stay current on vaccines, eat well, exercise, sleep and enjoy good health.

Danielle Federico, M.P.H. is the author of “MoMMy fabulouS: Complete pregnancy fitness and nutrition guide, designed to deliver a fabulous postpartum figure.” (amazon.com) She holds a Masters of public Health from uC berkeley and is a personal trainer and nutritional counselor. danielle’s popular blog www.dani-fabulous.com provides nutrition, health and fitness information for anyone looking to lead a healthier life.