A healthy lifestyle boosts your immune system: 5 tips

More energy, better mental balance, a stronger immune system, less risk of cardiovascular disease – a healthy lifestyle is incredibly beneficial. But how do you start living healthier? And how do you encourage colleagues to do the same?

“During the various waves of the coronavirus in recent years, the emphasis was primarily on hand hygiene, social distancing, and masks as preventative measures,” says Dorien Simons, prevention specialist ergonomics and vitality expert at Mensura. “But a healthy lifestyle is an equally important part of that list.”


“The healthier and fitter you are, the stronger your immunity to all kinds of pathogens, such as the coronavirus. And those who do get infected don’t get so ill.”

Obesity, in particular, appears to be a major culprit in terms of various diseases and viruses. This is because an obese person’s immune system reacts less effectively to pathogens. The accumulation of fat cells causes a chronic inflammatory reaction in the body. Obesity also increases the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

A healthy lifestyle – healthy food combined with sufficient exercise, sleep and relaxation – can prevent 70% to 90% of all chronic diseases (source: www.gezondleven.be).

So it’s worth making the effort, but how do you get your employees on the right track?

Tip 1: keep things simple

"You don’t have to become a vegan marathon runner", stresses Dorien. "On the contrary, the simpler you keep things, the longer you will keep it up. Encourage your employees to use the food pyramid as a guideline and to focus on the foods they can eat more of, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, wholemeal products, etc. Also, encourage them to drink enough water throughout the day."

When it comes to exercise, realistic goals are also Dorien’s motto. "At least half an hour of conscious exercise every workday is enough to achieve results. This can be cycling to work, going for a walk at lunchtime or starting the team meeting with some stretching exercises."

Be sure to pay sufficient attention to your teleworkers too. Dorien: "Research shows that people move even less at home than in the office. However, teleworkers can include some moments of exercise throughout the day: from raking leaves in the garden and picking up the children from school by bike to walking the dog."

Tip 2: give (yourself) little nudges

By 'nudging', you almost imperceptibly give your employees a push to choose the healthier alternative. Classic examples include footprint stickers on the ground leading to the stairwell or healthy snacks at the till in the company restaurant.

Those who often work from home and want to resist the temptations of the snack cupboard can also give themselves nudges, says Dorien. "This can be done by keeping healthy alternatives on hand, such as fruits or nuts, and displaying them prominently. Another tip: don’t put a big bottle of water on your desk; stand up every time you need to refill your empty glass."

Tip 3: go outdoors in the daylight

"If you get your daily dose of exercise in the open air, you will profit even more," says Dorien. "Daylight stimulates the brain areas that regulate our mood and sleep-wake rhythm. Those who absorb enough daylight will sleep better at night. By the way, the quality of your night’s rest is more important than the number of hours you sleep."

Moreover, the ultraviolet rays in sunlight are essential for producing sufficient vitamin D in the skin. The body uses vitamin D to improve muscle strength, strengthen the immune system and prevent inflammation, among other things.

The healthier and fitter you are, the stronger your immunity to all kinds of pathogens." Dorien Simons Prevention specialist ergonomics and vitality expert at Mensura

Tip 4: regularly make time for a technology detox

"Those who use their laptops for hours at a time when working should look for an activity that doesn’t include a screen. Try a short walk, a chat at the coffee machine, read a magazine, etc."

This golden rule also holds true during one’s time off: "Smartphones, laptops and tablets are best put aside two hours before bedtime. The blue light makes it harder to fall asleep and reduces the quality of one’s sleep. There are plenty of alternatives to relieve the stress of the day: reading, taking a bath, listening to or playing music, doing puzzles, drawing, knitting, yoga or breathing exercises, etc."

Sometimes I am asked which aspect is the most important in order to live healthier: nutrition, exercise or relaxation. But it’s the combination of these factors that makes a lifestyle healthy." Dorien Simons Prevention specialist ergonomics and vitality expert at Mensura

Tip 5: start small, but do it today

"Sometimes I am asked which aspect is the most important in order to live healthier: nutrition, exercise or relaxation," explains Dorien Simons. "But it doesn't work like that; it’s the combination of all these factors that makes a lifestyle healthy."

"However, I’m not advocating a drastic change in behaviour," she concludes. "Because then the risk of relapsing into old patterns is much greater than with a step-by-step approach. So my final tip is to start today, but focus on one healthy action a day."

Do you want your employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle?

Our free e-book ‘Fit for life and work’ (Dutch or French) gives you even more tips to get started.