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5 little actions to help you stay healthy in the city

By Bupa Global Sponsored | 22 June 2020

Brought to you by Bupa Global

The growth of city living is increasing around the world. By 2030, 60 percent of people are predicted to live in urban areas, with one in every three living in a city with at least half a million inhabitants1. It’s this proximity to other city dwellers that puts us at greater risk of catching colds, developing coughs, or picking up viruses. Especially in this sensitive time when COVID-19 is still ongoing, it’s more important than ever to take good care of your health.

Fortunately, there are so many measures you can take to avoid getting ill—some of which you may not even have considered before. We spoke with the professionals at Bupa Global, who tipped us off on the following five ways to help you stave off sickness.


Stand tall on public transport

When it comes to catching a cold on the bus or train, it really is a numbers game. Many disease-causing bacteria can spread up to four metres and remain alive in the air for up to 45 minutes following coughs and sneezes2.

Short of living in a bubble, what can you do? Standing during your commute may be unpleasant, but if you must, then research3 shows there are far fewer germs on ceiling poles than on vertical poles on public transport. Work those leg muscles! Once you’ve arrived at your destination, try not to touch your face if you’ve been in contact with surfaces on the trains, buses or escalators, as this is the easiest way for viruses to spread.


When life gives you lemons, just say no

Whatever your chosen beverage—gin and tonic, iced tea, or simply sparkling water—a slice of citrus is typically offered as a standard garnish. But beware: Fruit wedges in or on your glass could be a recipe for disaster. You don’t know the history of the lemon, lime, or the hands that have touched it before it arrived in front of you. Do you fully trust the restaurant or bar to wash their fruits thoroughly?

Plus, research4 into the rate of bacterial transfer to lemons has uncovered that lemons contaminated with the E. coli bacteria then left at room temperature for 24 hours had an increased bacterial population, so you may wish to pass on your citrus garnish unless you know where it came from.


Wash your hands for longer

Rather surprisingly, a 2017 study5 in hand washing found cold water to be as effective as hot water for killing germs, though it must be noted that the researchers limited their study to the E. coli bacteria. Bupa Global also recommends doubling the time you take to wash your hands—30 seconds rather than the usual 15—as it’s far more effective for protecting yourself against infections like the flu. Health advice from Hong Kong’s government recommends 20 seconds, which we think is a good mid-point.

Wherever you wash, just remember that when you turned those taps on, your hands weren’t clean. To turn them off hygienically, grab a paper towel or tissue to prevent your hands touching the dirty taps again.


Rethink how you’re drinking water

It’s a golden rule for all urbanites: Stay hydrated in the hot summer months by making sure you always have a water bottle with you. But you should be wise about your chosen vessel. Opting for a reusable water bottle, even one specifically designed for everyday use, can arguably be a one-way ticket to sickness.

A team of testers6 swabbed bottles that had been repeatedly used by an athlete over the course of a week. They found that slide- and squeeze-top bottles were crawling with the most bacteria, and even said that drinking from the latter was as unhygienic as eating a meal from your pet's food bowl.

In fact, 60 percent of the germs found on the bottles were associated with human illnesses. So if the thought of purchasing a new bottle every day seems too guilt-inducing or indulgent, choose the straw-top option, as these were found to carry the least harmful germs. Also, opt for smooth stainless steel over plastic, and always wash the bottle thoroughly after every use.


Don’t sit near the office photocopier

Struggling with asthma or breathing difficulties? Paying attention to where you sit in the office could help. Experts advise that photocopiers and laser printers create ozone gas as they work, which has been found to cause sore eyes, headaches, and respiratory irritation. Additionally, the toner used in the machines isn’t great for you either7. So if you can smell a chemical-like odour from where you’re sitting, definitely think about relocating.

If you are mindful about the way you lead your life, there are always actions you can take to avoid illnesses in crowded cities—COVID-19 or otherwise. Add to these an active office lifestyle, and you’ll be fighting fit regardless of the unique stresses of urban living.


  United Nations, last accessed in October 2019.

  Science Daily, last accessed in October 2019.

  Zava, last accessed in October 2019.

4  Research Gate, last accessed in October 2019.

5  Journal of Food Protection, last accessed in October 2019.

6  Treadmill Reviews, last accessed in October 2019.

7  Techwalla, last accessed in October 2019.

The Guardian, last accessed in October 2019.

The London Hazards Centre Factsheet, last accessed in October 2019.

Bupa Global

DISCLAIMER: This article was designed and produced by Bupa Global by searching internal and external data and information for information provision and reference purposes only. Any views or information mentioned and set out in this article/webpage is based on general situations. Readers should not regard them as medical advice or medical recommendations. Before making any decisions about the theme of this article, you are recommended to seek independent advice from suitable professionals (such as doctors, nutritionists, etc.). It is clearly stated that Bupa Global will not bear any responsibilities for others’ usage or interpretation of the information listed in this article. When preparing and/or updating this article, Bupa Global endeavours to ensure that the content is accurate, complete and updated but will not bear any responsibilities nor make any warranty or guarantee for the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of the information or for any claims and/or losses caused thereby.

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