In the days of the coronavirus, there’s no better time to talk about immunity than right now. Common knowledge tells us that exercise helps combat chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But can it actually boost your immunity and how?
In this article, we’ll outline how the immune system functions and how exercise could potentially keep you from getting sick.
Your Immune System Explained
The immune system is your body’s army of cells that rallies together when foreign invaders enter your body. It attacks these foreign cells, such as germs and bacteria, getting rid of them and keeping you healthy. But there’s more to this system than just the basics. Various cells, organs, and more team up and protect you from illness.
For instance, the immune system consists of white blood cells, also known as leukocytes. And these white blood cells can be broken down into many categories with different functions. There’s the white blood cells called phagocytes which basically eat foreign entities. Then there’s lymphocytes which are your immune system’s memory, helping your body remember these foreign invaders and rapidly destroy them the next time they attack.
Phagocytes, more specifically a particular type of phagocyte called neutrophils, are the guys doing the actual fighting. When a doctor is determining if someone has a bacterial infection or not, they may run blood tests to see if there are increased levels of neutrophils.
So, how does this system work? What does it do when it recognizes a foreign invader?
First, the body identifies the foreign substance, also called an antigen. Upon recognition of this antigen, lymphocytes quickly work to make antibodies (which is how vaccines work). Antibodies attach to the antigen signalling to other cells to attack. Antibodies also may neutralize the cell at this time. The other cells actively work to destroy the foreign cell. And this is how your body effectively fights off a disease. During this fight, your temperature may also rise causing a fever. Experts suggest this rise in temperature is the body attempting to kill and destroy the bacteria or germs. This system is an incredible line of defense – and it’s not one you want to take for granted. You need to treat your body right to get the most out of it. But first, let’s dive into the different types of immunity your body takes on.
The Different Types of Immunity
Surprisingly, there are three different types of immunity that your body receives. This includes passive, active, and innate. Innate immunity is given to you from birth. For instance, you’re born with your skin which is your first line of defense. Your passive immunity is given to you from – for example – your mother’s breast milk as a baby. It’s technically a ‘borrowed’ source of immunity. Finally, active immunity is the immunity you build up throughout the years of your life, depending on what you come into contact with.
Alright – So, How Does Exercise Help?
Surprisingly, exercise can even help when you’re battling a minor cold. Research further shows that regular physical activity is associated with increased vaccination response, and increased immune cells and function. How does movement contribute to these enhanced activities of the immune system?
There are a few theories, including:
→ Movement may help flush out the body, including bacteria or germs, and clearing the airways.
→ Regular physical activity may cause changes to occur in the immune cells, such as the white blood cells. How? It’s thought the body produces more of these cells and also is able to circulate them more, which helps detect foreign invaders faster.
→ The increased temperature you feel during exercise might actually burn off and fight foreign entities, keeping you in tip-top shape.
→ Exercise decreases stress. When you are less stressed, you’re less likely to get sick.
When Can Exercise Be Detrimental to Your Immune Function?
Overtraining can lead to exhaustion and is a huge no-no when it comes to boosting your immunity through exercise. In fact, prolonged physical activity has shown to cause reduced white blood cell and immune function. It might have the complete opposite effect than you want. A window of opportunity for viruses and germs to attack your body opens when you overload it.
Further a lack of sleep or poor nutritional choices can also lead to a lower immune response. If you’re very tired or haven’t been eating well, exercise can have an even worse effect on your body and its immune function or response. In other words, if you haven’t slept well, it might be in your best interest to forego your workout until the next day and after a good night’s rest. As always, it’s important to listen to your body!
Exercise can help boost your immune system – as long as you don’t overdo it. Many health experts recommend about 150 minutes of aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity combined with at least two strength training sessions per week. Moderate aerobic activity may include a brisk walk, mowing the lawn, cleaning, or a leisurely cycle. Vigorous aerobic activity may include running or intense exercise of any sort.
However, the amount you exercise and what you do may depend on your goals. You may want to include strength training more than two times a week if your goal is to tone up or gain strength. You’ll also want to consider reducing your time sitting, since this can lower your immune response as well as set you up for various chronic diseases.
Exercise should be part of your lifestyle. It’s part of proper self-care and living a healthy lifestyle. At Duwe Fitness, we believe that if you incorporate the pillars of a healthy life, you get what you want out of your life. You feel better. You perform better. Your mood improves. And when all these things are elevated, you can further lift the people up around you.
Further, if you want at-home workouts that will challenge you, look no further. Team Duwe Fitness is here to help you reach your goals – whatever they may be. From losing weight to getting toned, you can watch out workouts from anywhere. Plus, we keep it exciting. You don’t have to worry about getting bored. Each workout challenges you in a different way. Start with your free 7-day trial. How can you improve your health and your immunity?