By now, you know how to protect yourself against the flu and other viruses. You can wash your hands, socially distance, and have a balanced diet, to name a few. But another important part of supporting your health, which can also boost your immune system at the same time, is exercise. Here’s how you can exercise your way to a strong immune system.
Why Does Exercise Improve Immunity?
As it turns out, exercising can strongly affect your immune system. It can also help your body fight off illness. In fact, regular activity can have both long-term and short-term benefits.
Exercise increases blood and lymph flow. It also increases the flow of immune cells, making them move through the body at a higher rate and in higher numbers.
Exercise helps to recruit highly special immune cells—such as natural killer cells and T cells. These cells find pathogens, like viruses, and wipe them out.
Regular aerobic exercise takes it a step further by stimulating cells in bone marrow while increasing the turnover of older cells, which helps heal damaged cells.
Combining these two types of activities together creates a strong defense system in your body. In fact, research has shown that they help your body learn how to protect itself by enhancing the immune response to vaccinations.
Your body is meant to move. Moderate movement at least five days a week can strengthen your immune system. It can also keep your blood sugar stable, help manage your weight, lower inflammation, and promote longevity.
What Happens If We Don’t Exercise Enough?
As previously stated, your body is meant to move. By not moving enough, your body’s immune system is missing out on all the amazing benefits. Because of this, it can’t work at its best.
When you stay sedentary, it’s easier to get sick. The lack of movement means your immune cells aren’t as strong and you are less able to fend off intruders.
Additionally, this lifestyle often leads to obesity, which indirectly affects your immune system.
Your immune cells shift their focus to the immune cells that cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more. While your body is busy fighting off these cells, they have a difficult time fighting off other illnesses.
When immune cells try to function with inflammation, it puts the immune system in a chronically inflamed state too.
Can You Exercise Too Much?
While continuous heavy exercise can make your body more likely to get injured, your immune system isn’t safe either.
You shouldn’t do strenuous workouts or lift extremely heavy weights every single day without a break. This way your body’s immune system is focused on staying healthy instead of focusing on repairing your muscles.
It’s also recommended to lay off high-intensity exercises during times of extremely high stress or when your body is really sick. Your body is already in a stressful state, so your immune system feels the same way and can start acting up, which could last for a few hours to a few days.
The bigger concern, however, is not exercising enough. Inactivity affects multiple parts of your body, which can make it easier to get sick.
Finding safe ways to do any kind of movement, even getting into the habit of walking daily, will have a positive effect on your immune system. Creating goals, such as hitting 10,000 steps, and tracking your results with your phone will help motivate you to keep moving.
Although it is not a standalone solution, exercise can be a valuable step to a stronger immune system and better overall health.