Nutrition is key to sports performance

With COVID-19 still around and seasonal allergies in full swing, taking care of your immune system is more important than ever. Unfortunately, there is a lot misinformation on the internet about how to ‘hack’ or ‘boost’ your immune system. In reality, there are no special ‘hacks’ or ways to ‘boost’ your immune function. What you can focus on is making lifestyle changes that will keep your immune system running strong for the long term. Follow these tips below to help improve your immune system and overall health:

  1. Exercise RegularlyExercise has been shown to provide extensive benefits for overall health, including the immune system. Current physical activity guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. jogging/running). Additionally, it is recommended to perform muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. Aim to plan your exercise for the week in advance so you successfully meet the guidelines. Click here to learn other tips for jump starting your exercise routine.
  2. Improve sleeping habits/patternsResearch shows that getting too little sleep or getting poor quality sleep increases your likelihood of getting sick, and also impacts how fast you recover from illness. To help keep your immune system strong, aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Need some help getting there? Check out this article to learn simple solutions for a great night’s sleep.
  3. Eat a healthy, well-balanced dietEating a well-balanced diet ensures your body receives all the necessary nutrients for optimal health. Following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 report, the core elements of a healthy dietary plan include fruits, vegetables, wholes grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, lean meats/seafood or other protein sources (beans/lentils/nuts/seeds), and healthy oils/fats. Vitamins and minerals that appear especially beneficial to immune health include vitamins A, C, E, as well as zinc and selenium. Need more ideas on boosting these vitamins and minerals in your meals and snacks? Learn some dietitian approved tips!
  4. Get enough Vitamin DCurrent research indicates that a lack of vitamin D places you at an increased risk for infections and predisposes you to autoimmune disease(s). Vitamin D can be obtained through foods like eggs and salmon, as well as from fortified foods like milk/plant milks, orange juice, or cereal. Vitamin D production can also be activated in the body from sunlight exposure via UVB radiation. To achieve this, aim to get at least 10-15 minutes of sunlight exposure several times per week. Supplemental vitamin D can also be used if you live in colder climates or find it difficult to obtain through your diet. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about the right dose for you.
  5. Maintain a healthy body weightMaintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) and body weight is vital for immune function and health. Being overweight or obese has been shown to impair overall immunity. Following all of the above tips is a great place to start to help you reach and maintain a healthy body weight. For additional support with healthy weight management, click here to learn about the classes, coaching, nutrition counseling, educational videos and more that Ohio State offers!