Many people were happy to discover that physical activity can help boost one’s immune system. Some 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, in turn slowing the effects of aging on the immune system. Exercise has also been known to reduce the risk of chronic health conditions that can further harm the immune system. The following is a brief guide on how to boost 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 work out 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 be 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 its maximum. In the past, it was believed that high-intensity exercise actually leads to a brief decrease in immunity. However, Exercise Immunology Reviews confirmed that this is not accurate and that more intensity does not negatively affect immunity or increase the 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
If you do not allow your body to recover properly after high-intensity exercise, you are more likely to become ill. But that is not because of the exercise. 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
Research originally focused solely 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 increase your immunity. If you would rather focus on one style of training more than the other that is perfectly fine, but you do want to ensure you switch it up every so often so you are integrating both forms into your regular routine. Swimming is a great aerobic exercise, especially for the summer; bodyweight exercises or resistance band workouts are good examples of strength training.
5. Exercise Outdoors!
You will get the same physical results from exercising indoors or outdoors, but your immune system 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. Bring a mat and some resistance bands with you to exercise outdoors; running outdoors is better than a treadmill for clearing your mind and putting yourself at ease.
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