With coronavirus (COVID-19) cases rising at an exponential rate, there is no more important time than right now to have a strong immune system. Despite the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the current situation, one comforting notion is that there are things that you can control.  One of the most important coronavirus prevention strategies that are in your control–aside from social distancing–is  improving your immune system. A healthy immune system allows the body to defend against harmful infections and diseases.

While you can’t control contracting coronavirus, below are a few strategies you can implement now that will give your body a better chance of fighting COVID-19 if you do come in contact with it.

1. Get plenty of sleep each night

This, like many items on the list is a given.  Now more than ever these things need to become a priority.  Why not give yourself the best chance possible to stay healthy though this ordeal?  There is no excuse not to get a good night’s sleep, especially if you are self-quarantined or working from home for the foreseeable future.  I understand that many of you have a busy schedule and have kids, but try your best to manage your time properly so you can get the rest you need to allow your body to be functioning at its best to protect you. According to a study published in the European Journal of Physiology, there is “strong evidence that sleep enhances immune defense.”  Aim for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. 

2. Consume Vitamin C

The tried and true baseline of immune system protection, incorporate either natural (oranges, kale, etc.) or supplemental vitamin C in your daily regimen for extra protection. 

3. Laugh

This may be the most surprising item on the list and last thing you want to do when you think about the coronavirus, but is it essential.  Not only does laughing reduce stress, but according a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine laughing out loud can improve your immune system’s ability to protect you. The study found “subjects who laughed out loud during the humor video had significantly increased immune function.”  The takeaway: if you’re stuck at home, opt for Seinfeld reruns instead of a horror movie, or call a good friend and share a laugh.  The study did note that smiling didn’t have the same effect, actually laughing out loud proved to be most beneficial.  

4. Reduce Stress

Stress is an immune system killer.  Despite the immense stress everyone is feeling right now, it is essential to find ways to relax.  Whether its an at home yoga or meditation session, or simply listening to relaxing music, it is imperative to find your own way to destress.  People under immense stress are more susceptible to illness and disease due to a weakened immune system.

5. Exercise

We all know that regular exercise is the cornerstone to a healthy body.  According to research from Harvard University, exercise directly impacts immune system function by, “promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.”  It doesn’t have to be the perfect workout, but do something!  If you’re at home, try this full body workout I wrote that only requires a resistance band—you could even use a backpack or a gallon of water for resistance if you don’t have bands.  For beginners and veteran exercisers alike. 

6. Eat a balanced diet with nutritious foods

Hydrate and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins of your choosing. Poor nutrition puts you at higher risk for infection. On the other hand, “balanced nutrition, especially in terms of adequate vitamin, mineral and protein intake, enhances the resistance against infections,” says a study published in the Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy. It’s ok to have a little comfort food, but make sure you are having primarily balanced nutritious meals.