Raking leaves and making cider aren’t the only items you should add to your fall to-do list. With cold and flu season right around the corner, it’s also an important time to ready your immune defenses. Add in the stress of the approaching holiday season and strengthening your immune system isn’t only smart – it’s vital.

Your immune system is a complex network of organs, tissues, cells, and chemicals that work together to prevent and fight infections. A healthy immune system is strong and capable of protecting your body from illness, but it can be weakened through unhealthy habits like stress, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and smoking, leaving you vulnerable to germs and sickness.

On the other hand, there are healthy ways to boost your immune system and shore up your body’s defenses. They’re also surprisingly easy! As you prepare for sweaters and all things pumpkin spice, add these easy immunity boosters to your fall routine.

Eat a healthy diet.

Celebrate the harvest season with a well-balanced diet to keep your immunity strong and resilient. Immune-healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. A diet rich in these items will provide your immune system with energy and valuable nutrients it needs to perform its duties.

Exercise regularly.

Physical activity stimulates the immune system and increases the circulation of infection-fighting cells. It also helps prevent obesity, which is known to stress your immune response. Put that fabulous fall weather to good use by getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day.

Make sleep a priority.

Sleep is a vital process for healthy immune function. The act of sleeping may feel unproductive, but your immune system is hard at work restoring daily damage and creating the cells that fight infection. This fall season, aim to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night.

Drink water.

Staying hydrated helps your body naturally flush out germs and harmful toxins, taking some of the strain off your immune system. Water is also necessary to produce lymph, the fluid used to transport immune cells around the body. Swap that apple cider for a tall glass of water as needed to stay hydrated and healthy.

Get vaccinated.

Vaccines train your immune system to recognize and fight harmful invaders. But vaccines are much safer than actual germs, and they train your body to respond more effectively. Be sure to get your annual flu shot and any current Covid-19 boosters to give your immune system the fighting chance it needs.