Given the current climate that we are living in, we as individuals must do everything in our power to maximise our own health and particularly our immune systems. The immune system is the human body’s primary protection against illness, controlling diseases caused by viruses and bacteria, all the way through to defending against foreign cells that may be cancerous or deadly. When sickness occurs, the body shows symptoms such as a runny nose and a cough to show that the immune system is at work to remove the germs. Most of the time, we do not even realise its working for us, killing a large proportion of the germs before we even know they are there. However if our immune system is compromised or not working effectively, it means that our body’s ability to fight off pathogens that could potentially be harmful to us is inhibited and can lead to significant negative health consequences.
Certain stimuli, dietary choices and habits can influence the strength and effectiveness of our immune system, making it either weaker or stronger. Prolonged stress, for example, is something that can negatively affect the body’s immune response due to the release of cortisol, which contributes to increased blood pressure, raised heart rate and even weight gain. If our immune response is inhibited for long enough it means we become more susceptible to colds and infections that the body would normally fight off, but is unable to due to a system that is not working optimally.
exercise as an immune system boost
Conversely, though regular exercise is one way in which we can boost our immunity and enhance our capacity to maintain a healthy system. Exercise facilitates the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone), reduces the amount of cortisol in our bodies and stimulates the number of antibodies and white blood cells in the blood, which is our disease-fighting cells. Exercise also leads to a core body temperature increase that may be sufficient enough to stop bacterial growth and reproduction, just like a fever, which is where the idea of sweating it out comes from. Additionally, exercise can increase swelling and therefore blood flow in the body, allowing more immune cells to be transported around the body, providing us with a greater opportunity to protect against infection. Furthermore, long-term release of anti-inflammatory proteins, assist the use of glucose and lipids as fuel for the body, leading to improved metabolic outcomes reducing the risk of future health problems.
Along with the aforementioned benefits, exercise also aids to improve mood, mental health, mental sharpness and cognitive clarity along with enhancing sleep quality, which is critical in reducing stress levels. When you consider this along with exercises’ ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and the improvements it fosters with glucose and lipid control, it is not surprising that it has an overall positive impact on an individual’s immune system
forms of exercise
Ultimately, when it comes to the question of how much and what type of exercise is required to help the body’s immune response, there are a few important factors. Firstly trying to make sure that the intensity of our workouts is at least moderate in nature (5-6/10) is critical to be able to achieve the adaptions. This is coupled with the need to make sure the exercise is regular and a minimum of 10 minutes at a time to maximise the benefit. Outside of these parameters though there is plenty of scope for variety, which is great news. So if you prefer walking to running or weights to cardio, you will still be able to help boost your immune system with a regular bout of these activities. The aim is consistency, and to supplement good exercising habits with positive dietary choices. If you can do these things then, you will be well on your way to fostering a great environment for your immune system to thrive.