Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at how exercise timing affects your body, the negative side of social media motivation, and a de-stressing trick that actually works.

Workout timing nets different results

New research published in the journal Cell Metabolism suggests that the health benefits you get from exercise vary depending on what time you’re doing it.

The research, from the University of Copenhagen and the University of California, Irvine, covered by Men’s Health, found that mice that exercised in the morning saw the cells in their muscles better process fat and sugar. Those moving at night burned more calories for a longer period.

Scientists said these differences can be chalked up to the body’s light-affected circadian clock, which helps regulate metabolic function.

This research could soon be relevant in helping people who are severely overweight or suffer from Type 2 diabetes to get the most out of their workouts.

However, scientists say more research is needed before they can use it to tailor an exercise prescription.

Proven immunity boosters

Searches for how to bolster the immune system have surged in recent weeks with manufacturers pushing an array of different supplements or products, but not all the solutions you find online are reliable.

Here’s some science-backed advice from The New York Times on ways to protect your body from infection this season.

  1. Lower your stress levels. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have over two decades found that people who reported less stress in their lives were less likely to get sick when exposed to a cold virus. The same was true for wound healing, which took up to a full day longer when couples in a study argued.
  2. Improve your sleep habits. A sleep-deprived immune system doesn’t work as well. One study found that those who regularly got less than six hours of sleep a night were 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold from the virus they were exposed to than those who got seven or more.
  3. Check your vitamin D level. Some promising new research shows that checking your vitamin D level and taking a supplement could help your body fight off respiratory illness. Why is vitamin D such a help? It helps the body produce the anti-microbial proteins that kill bacteria and viruses, though more research is needed on how much makes a difference. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, as well as fortified milk.
  4. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Numerous studies have linked too much drinking to a weakened immune system, susceptibility to respiratory infections and pneumonia, and longer healing times. It can alter the number of microbes in the gut microbiome, damage the lunges and impair the mucosal immune system, which is essential in helping the body fight infection. Up to a drink a day for women and two for men is what the federal dietary guidelines recommend.
  5. Eat a balanced diet and skip unproven supplements. Sure, you’ve probably seen blog posts suggesting you drink bone broth and eat boiled garlic or other foods such as elderberry, turmeric or oregano oil. While several small studies suggest that eating garlic may enhance immune system function and zinc lozenges can slightly shorten the duration of a cold, strong evidence for many of these “cures” is lacking. While there’s no harm in eating many of them, make sure you’re focusing just as much attention on eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables.

A proven de-stressor

You might have tried imagining a favorite beach vacation to calm your nerves before when times got tough. It turns out that visualizations like these, a favorite piece of music or shirt, or small items like a crystal or rock you can stash in your pocket can serve as “safety signals” or a cue to remind you (and the neural network in your brain) to find calm when things get hectic. More research on these signals and the science behind them can be found in this Well + Good post.

Photo credit: Geber86, Getty Images