These days, we are all stuck inside most of the day (for those of us who are working from home or are out of a job). As much as this helps keep us safe from the current coronavirus pandemic, our immune system can suffer in other ways. It’s important, especially now, to set your immune health as one of your top priorities. As you likely know, there are many ways to boost the immune system through lifestyle including diet and stress reduction, but another important, often-overlooked immune booster is exercise. Read on to find out the importance of exercise to the immune system.
How does exercise help our immune system?
The interesting thing is that while we know exercise is a great immune booster, the scientific community doesn’t know exactly how it works. Several theories exist for why this is so, including the idea that physical activity helps flush bacteria out of our airways, the notion that exercise boosts our antibodies, and the hypothesis that the rise in body temperature experienced during exercise helps slow down the growth of bacteria. Whatever the reasoning behind it, we do know that getting up and exercising just 30 minutes a day can boost your body’s ability to fight off infection.
Exercise also works directly to improve the immune system. It does this by helping to reduce stress, which is known to lower immunity. Stress is not just in your head – it results in an actual physical response by your body. Stress causes the release of cortisol, the “stress hormone” as well as the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight,” response both which can decrease the body’s inflammatory response and infection fighting capabilities.
Exercise in and of itself is great for the immune system, but if you want to boost it even more, consider getting your exercise done outdoors. Fresh air and sunlight are good immune boosters as well. Not to mention the vitamin D we get from sunlight which in it of itself can boost immunity and reduce the risk of developing respiratory infections. So go for walks, jogs or take your yoga practice outdoors. For a mental health boost, enjoy nature and exercise at the park, head to the beach or go for a hike. Being in the quiet with nature can calm the mind and relax you, something we especially need these days!
So get outside and get some exercise, even a light walk. Your body needs it and so does your mind! Physical activity is essential to a well balanced life. Start small. Commit to a few short short workouts, a walk or any sort of movement just once or twice a week. Before you know it regular physical activity will be a habit for you!