How Exercise Boosts Your Immune System?
Microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi present in our environment can harm our body and make us sick. The basic purpose of our immune system including various organs and immune cells is to fight against these infective microorganisms.
Our immune status can be influenced by several factors such as age, gender, dietary habits, medical fitness, training, and physical fitness. Any dysfunction in organs or cells of the immune system can cause a person to become highly susceptible to illness and infections.
[Also Read: Foods that boost immunity]
Our Body’s Immune System Has Two Functional Divisions
1. Innate Immunity
This is inborn immunity. It consists of anatomical and physiological barriers;
- The skin
- The mucus lining of cells
- Body temperature
- The pH of body fluids
- Complement system containing inflammatory mediators and cytokines
2. Adaptive Immunity
This type of immunity develops after we are exposed to certain infections. Adaptive immunity consists of two varieties;
- Humoral – Antibodies and memory of previous infections
- Cell-mediated – With the help of B and T lymphocytes (types of white blood cells)
This article will help you understand a frequently asked question about how exercise boosts your immune system along with some specific exercises that promote and maintain good immunity.
How Does Exercising Boost The Immune System?
Epidemiological studies have consistently proven that a strong correlation exists between the intensity of exercise and immunity. Exercise has several potential health benefits such as protection against neurological illnesses, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and also cancer in the following ways;
- Exercise stimulates the immune system and strengthens it to fight against infections.
- Exercise temporarily raises the body temperature which prevents bacteria and viruses from growing and multiplying within the body.
- Exercise raises the respiratory rate temporarily and this helps to flush out bacteria and viruses from the respiratory tract reducing the risk of colds and flu-like illnesses.
- Exercise causes a slight alteration in white blood cells and immune cells which help to fight against infection.
- Exercise inhibits the release of stress hormones. Exercise stimulates the release of “happy hormones” or endorphins.
Studies have found that untrained individuals who started exercising noticed a significant improvement in their immune status and became less susceptible to illnesses. Besides, exercising also makes you feel energetic and helps you to function better.
On the contrary, some studies have also proven that intensive training lasting for about one hour stimulates the immune system but an exercise lasting for more than a few hours or an extremely strenuous exercise can weaken the immune system and make them highly susceptible to infections temporarily. This effect can be seen in both trained and untrained individuals.
Exercises To Boost Immunity
The above statements make it quite clear that even 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily can boost the immune system but you need not overdo it. Those who exercise regularly must not intensify their exercise simply for boosting their immunity and those who are not habituated to exercising must begin some moderate physical activity.
People with busy work schedules find it difficult to put aside 30 minutes of their time and can also split their exercise program into separate convenient amounts throughout the day.
According to researchers, some moderate-intensity exercises that can boost the immune system can include the following;
- Walking or brisk walking for about 20-30 minutes per day
- Cycling for about 30 minutes a few times a week
- You may also enroll yourself into a gym and undertake exercises as advised by your trainer
- Low to moderate intensity yoga sessions under the supervision
- Moderate intensity strength training exercises
- Lite aerobic exercises for about 30 minutes a day
- Swimming for about 20-30 minutes daily can significantly improve the cardio-respiratory status and also boost the immune system
Before beginning any form of exercise, it is important to get advice from your doctor about the type of exercise and the intensity of exercise suitable for your age, gender, and your cardio-respiratory status.
Some additional cautions to be kept in mind while you want to boost your immunity by exercising are;
- Avoid exercising for long durations or exercising intensively as it may cause the release of inflammatory cytokines instead of boosting immunity.
- It is also necessary to avoid exercising when you are unwell.
- Avoid pushing yourself too much or over-lifting as it can lead to serious injuries
- Seeking medical advice before beginning exercise is specifically recommended for the high-risk group of individuals such as;
- Elderly patients, patients beyond the age of 65 years
- Pregnant or lactating women
- Persons with deformities
- Individuals with co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes mellitus type II, other cardiovascular illnesses and autoimmune disorders
Along with exercising, several other factors play an essential role in boosting your immunity by adopting healthier lifestyle options such as;
- Consume a healthy, nutritious diet. This includes a well-balanced diet containing all essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and adequate proportions of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
- Drink plenty of water. A minimum of 1-2 liters of water per day is essential for maintaining good hydration
- Limit consumption of alcohol and cigarette smoking as they are known to lower immunity
- Moderate your intake of caffeine
- Reduce stress with the help of meditation, yoga, music or by pursuing hobbies in your leisure time such as art, gardening, cleaning and so on
- Get adequate sleep. A minimum of 6-8 hours of sleep is essential for a person to perform his/her daily routine chores optimally.
Over the last few years, people have noticed a marked change in their lifestyle, which is from a more active one to adopt a more sedentary one. We are well aware that a sedentary lifestyle is a potential invitation for various health disorders such as a lowered immunity and development of chronic ailments like obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndromes.
This article has proven that exercise boosts the immune system by positively altering metabolism. Therefore, exercise can be one of the ways to boost the immune system naturally along with other measures like a healthy, nutritious diet, basic hygiene practices, adequate sleep, and a good amount of water intake.