Enhance your immune system with exercise

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Enhance your immune system with exercise

Our immune system holds the key to keeping us healthy and free from illness.  Healthy food choices and adequate sleep are two components that help keep this system operating smoothly reducing the likelihood of illness. But a third component to add to this mix is exercise.  If you are a person who engages in regular physical activity, you are doing your immune system a huge favor.  Even just a few sessions a week of breaking out into a sweat can drastically reduce your chances of catching a cold or feeling tired all the time.

Exercise not only gets and keeps you in shape but with the added bonus of boosting your immune system, you will be helping assist your body by fighting off potential antigens that want to bring you down. 

Studies have shown that when a person works out regularly, they take fewer sick days than those who rarely work out.  The less days we spend being sick, the more days we have to enjoy being well.

How does exercise enhance our immune system?

There are several things occurring when we get our body up and moving through physical activity directly affecting our immune system.  Here are some ways exercise keeps our immunity strong:

·      Exercise gets our heart pumping above its resting rate which means a greater volume of blood is being pumped throughout your body. 

·      The deep breathing that occurs when exercising also gives a workout to our lungs.  Our lungs respond by doing a better job of utilizing oxygen and distributing it to the rest of the body.  Exercise also aids in flushing our bacteria from the lungs and airways reducing the risk of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.

·      Physical activity means we are moving muscle and when muscle is used, that makes them stronger. 

·      Our immune system is comprised of white blood cells which are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease.  Through physical activity, changes occur in antibodies and white blood cells causing them to move more efficiently around the body searching for and destroying antigens wanting to cause us harm. 

·      When we workout, our body temperature rises which may help prevent bacteria from growing.  Bacteria don’t like high temperatures so the rise in body temperature may help the body fight off infections better. 

·      Exercise is a great stress reliever and by moving around more, it slows down the release of stress hormones.  When we are under stress, it can increase the chance for us being more vulnerable to getting sick.  With the stress hormones being lowered, this may help protect against illness.

Overall, exercise is a natural boost to our immune system we should take advantage of several times each week.

Avoid overdoing it with exercise

On the one hand exercise is obviously good for us but don’t overdo it.  If we are ratcheting up our current exercise routine just to gain additional benefits to our immune system, it could actually end up hurting it instead.  Our bodies need rest and if you are training too hard it could backfire.  Sometimes, individuals who train for marathons or intense gym training may weaken the immune system due to the intensity, duration, and frequency of their workouts.  To avoid this effect on the immune system, allow adequate time for sleep to refresh and reenergize your body. 

In conclusion

To gain the immune-boosting benefits from exercise, you do not have to be an elite athlete.  All it takes is common sense and dedication to spend at least 30 minutes most days of the week by going for a brisk walk, bicycling, jogging, swimming, hitting the gym, or any other type of workout you enjoy. 

By making exercise a priority, you will be strengthening your immune system in addition to enjoying more sick-free days.