Stay active and healthy this winter

As soon as the gloom and cold of winter hits the Hudson Valley, the urge to stay indoors bundled under blankets becomes reality for many people.

And for those battling a cold, stomach virus or the flu, exercise is the last thing they may feel like doing.

To help, three Health Quest primary care physicians shared some tips on how they stay active and avoid illnesses when temperatures dip into the teens and below.

Dr. Francis Mayle, of the practice's Modena office, likes being outside in the cold weather and is an avid snowshoer.

"My attitude is there is no bad weather, just bad clothing," he said. Good-fitting and insulated winter snow boots with wool socks will keep your feet safe when exercising outdoors.

Dr. Teresa Foster, who sees patients in Woodstock, enjoys cross-country skiing whenever she gets the time.  Cross-country skiers or snowshoers can burn between roughly a few hundred to 1,000 calories per hour, depending on the intensity of their workout.

Because she can't always get outdoors for an adventure on the snow, Dr. Foster also goes to a fitness center two days each week. It's how she boosts her immune system, increases energy and keeps away the winter blues.

For some people, paying a membership fee is motivation enough to go to the gym and get their money's worth. For others, setting a certain time and day for fitness is also effective. 

To help her keep her immune system at peak performance, Dr. Foster eats lots of servings of fruit each day. She prefers fruits that are high in vitamin C and zinc for their many health benefits.

A good night's sleep of at least eight hours keeps Modena-based Dr. Lorraine Allegro-Skinner healthy. Poor sleep habits of six or fewer hours have been linked to weight gain and higher risk for chronic disease by many research studies.

Going to bed earlier at a consistent time, and putting electronic devices on airplane mode at bedtime can help improve sleep.

Nighttime is also an opportunity to run a humidifier by the bedside, Dr. Allegro-Skinner said. This air moisture therapy helps to prevent some cold-weather ailments, such as dry skin, nose bleeds, stuffy sinuses and sore throats.

Finally, frequent hand-washing is the best way to avoid catching whatever illnesses are going around, the doctor advised. Soap is best, but hand sanitizer is a good alternative when you aren't near a sink.

Make sure you scrub the front and back of your hands and between your fingers for at least 20 seconds before you rinse, Dr. Allegro-Skinner said.

As for how often you should wash, the doctor said, you really can't wash too much.

Dr. Francis Mayle, Dr. Lorraine Allegro-Skinner and Dr. Teresa Foster are primary care physicians at Health Quest Medical Practice, with office hours in Modena and Woodstock respectively. Click on their names to learn more about them.