The Magical Relationship Of Exercise And Immunity

Immunity refers to the body’s ability to protect itself from the effects of disease-causing germs and thereby preventing infectious diseases

Winters have almost arrived and the end of the pandemic may be in sight.  Much has been discussed regarding our immune system over the past two years, and it is as important as ever to try boost our immunity levels. Having a healthy immune system protects us from infections and also can prevent most severe illnesses and complications. In medical terms, immunity refers to the body’s ability to protect itself from the effects of disease-causing germs and thereby preventing infectious diseases. 

Having a good lifestyle with a nutritious diet and adequate exercise can help to naturally improve our immune system and help us stay healthier and happier. The human immune response to infections depends on multiple factors such as genetics, age and physical condition. It has been observed that people who follow healthy lifestyle practices have better immune systems, hence are more capable of naturally preventing infections and preventing serious diseases. 

General guidelines to boost the immune system includes maintaining a healthy weight, getting adequate sleep, minimising stress, avoiding tobacco, avoiding binge drinking, and eating a balanced diet. Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals can weaken one’s immune system. However, rather than popping an artificial pill or supplement; a diet rich in natural nutrients like fresh fruits, vegetables, natural lean protein, fibre, and whole grains are better in giving us the adequate amount of healthy nutrients and micronutrients. 

We are all aware of the multiple benefits of regular moderate exercise and how it helps us maintain a healthy weight, prevent chronic lifestyle diseases, and has positive effects on mental health. 

Exercise also has been shown to help boost immunity. It has been noted, that exercise directly affects the immune system in a positive way. The most important immune system cells in our body are the White Blood Cells (WBCs). WBCs are defence cells that fight germs and prevent them from causing serious illness. Many studies reveal that moderate intensity regular exercise can stimulate this cellular immunity, thus helping our bodies natural defence system be more effective. 

Exercise, especially aerobic and cardio exercises, improve our lung function and blood circulation. As a result, our body can flush out germs and toxins from our system more effectively, leading to a lessened possibility of serious infections. Exercise helps to prevent and control chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes (high blood sugar), Dyslipidaemia (cholesterol abnormalities), and Hypertension (high blood pressure). Controlling these chronic diseases makes our system more resistant to infections. 

Exercise also slows the release of stress hormones like Cortisol and increases the release of happy hormones like Endorphins, thereby protecting against illness. Along with an improvement in happy hormones exercise improves sleep quality and quantity. Better sleep improves the immune system, since that is the time when the body regenerates and repairs itself. Studies suggest that moderate intensity exercise with appropriate rest periods can improve the body’s inflammatory immune response, thereby reducing the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases. 

Studies have also shown that performing regular medium intensity exercises improves our body’s response to vaccinations. Therefore, the acquired immunity obtained through Influenza, Pneumonia, and even covid-19 vaccines can be more effective in individuals who have proper regular exercise schedules. In addition to its numerous benefits, exercise also slows down the negative effects of aging on our immune system, hence it is always advisable to maintain an active lifestyle. 

A moderate exercise schedule includes aerobic and cardio exercises like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and even dancing. The easy way to identify cardio-aerobic exercises are the ones that increase heart rate and breathing in a natural manner. 

The Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health published by the World Health Organisation in 2010 specify that adults over 18 years of age should perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination of the two. The recommendations also suggest, that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities or resistance exercises involving all major muscle groups 2 or more days per week.

All exercise programmes should preferably have a warm up and a cool down component that includes stretching. However, one needs to note that stretching on its own is not sufficient exercise. Exercise should also have appropriate periods of rest and one should avoid overdoing excessively strenuous exercise especially when physically unwell.  

In-order to fight infections and prevent serious disease, we need to keep our body and our immune system strong and robust. That can be achieved by adopting healthy lifestyle practices like – eating healthy and not skipping meals, avoiding smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption, avoiding excess alcohol, sleeping well, reducing emotional stress, and being active. 

Regular moderate intensity exercise is the open secret to a happy mind and a healthy body with a strong immune system. 

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