Support Your Immune System with Exercise

Support Your Immune System with Exercise

People are now exercising more regularly to support their immune systems amid the coronavirus pandemic. Experts weighed in on how to get the most from your exercises when working towards better immune health. Journal of Sport and Health Science published a review detailing how exercise relates to immune health by mobilizing pathogen- and inflammation-fighting immune cells, thus slowing the effects of aging on the immune system. Exercise has also been proven to reduce the risk of chronic health conditions that can cause further damage to the immune system. The following is a brief guide on how to support your immune system with exercise.

1. Be Consistent

The most important factor is perhaps the regularity with which you exercise. Jim Beitzel of Northwestern Medicine Athletic Training & Sports Performance Clinic says “each workout adds to the benefits of the prior one.” So, if you tend to workout infrequently, you are not giving your body the chance to compound immune boosting workouts one after the other. Beitzel recommends 60 minutes of exercise five days per week, but if you aren’t used to exercising he suggests you start out slow and build your way up to the recommended amount. No matter where you start, as long as you remain consistent you will being doing your immune system a favor.

2. Allow Yourself an Intense Workout

High-intensity exercise is considered to be anything that increases your heart rate to more than 85% of it’s maximum. In the past it was believed that high-intensity exercise actually lead to a brief decrease in immunity. However, Exercise Immunology Reviews confirmed that this is not accurate and greater intensity does not negatively affect immunity or increase risk for infection. Getting your heart rate up each day is important, running and biking are just two simple ways to achieve a bit of high-intensity exercise.

3. Recovery is Important

Illness following a workout is usually a sign that your body was unable to properly recover after exercise, but this is not because of the workout itself. As you increase the intensity and frequency with which you exercise, your body will require more rest to recover from the stress on your muscles. While exercise helps relieve non-exercise-related stress, those unrelated stressors also require more rest and relaxation to keep your immune system in check. So, aside from regular exercise, make sure you are taking care of your body with proper nutrients and plenty of rest. If you are sore for more than three days post-workout or experience extreme bouts of fatigue, you may need more recovery. Quality sleep, reading, and yoga are just a few ways to allow your body to recover.

4. Mix Cardio and Strength Training

Much of the original research focused mainly on the impacts of aerobic exercises on immune health, but one study shows that resistance training affects the body’s immunity on a cellular level. Further, maintaining muscle strength can actually increase your immunity. If you prefer one style of training over the other that is perfectly fine, but make sure you switch it up so you are providing support to your immune system with both kinds of exercise. Swimming is a great aerobic exercise, especially for the summer; body weight exercises or resistance band workouts are good examples of strength training.

5. Exercise Outside

You will see the same physical results from exercising indoor or outdoors, but your body may prefer the outdoors because you will be getting vitamin D which is great for immune system support. Exercising outdoors also might “strengthen the immune system by activating the body’s parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ system.” This reduces physiological stress levels, helping to boost immunity. With a mat and some resistance bands, you can get a great workout outdoors, and running outdoors is better than a treadmill for clearing your mind and putting yourself at ease.

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