Boost Your Immune System With EXERCISE!
There’s no shortage of products marketed to boost your immune system – from over-the-counter supplements to guzzling orange juice. Some may help while others can only offer a placebo effect. One thing is for certain: exercise has been proven to support a healthy immune system.
Let’s first go back to the basics of what happens when you exercise. Exercise increases your heart rate, pumping more blood and delivering oxygen to the lungs and other working tissues. This response affects lymph which contains white blood cells and other fluid. Muscle contraction from physical activity and internal movement of blood and lymph occurs when we exercise.
Typically, there are small amounts of immune cells that circulate on a consistent basis throughout the body; by increasing the movement of blood and lymph (which contains white blood cells) through exercise, you are increasing the movement of more immune cells from lymph nodes and the spleen into the bloodstream.
Think of it this way: A store that has one security camera will be limited to catching shoplifters from that one location. A store with security guards walking around will be able to catch shoplifting at many different locations within the store and prevent further shoplifting from happening due to an increased presence. Your immune system works in a similar way.
Physical activity promotes the movement of the immune system via white blood cells to more locations where viruses and bacteria can be identified. Those white blood cells are the “security guards” walking around.
Not only does exercise get the immune cells moving throughout the body during activity, but it also promotes a lasting presence of these immune cells for up to three hours after exercise is completed. This provides extra time for the immune cells to identify unwanted intruders and keep you from getting sick.
With consistent exercise comes more time for immune cells to patrol the body for bacteria and viruses. Therefore, it’s beneficial to get into a routine of moving your body rather than exercising just occasionally. Regular exercise plays a starring role in keeping you healthy and preventing illnesses. It strengthens your immune system and helps fight viral and bacterial infections.
Other ways exercise benefits your immune system:
- Improves your quality of sleep, which aides in recovery
- Increases bone density and decreases odds of getting osteoporosis
- Elevated body temperature during exercise can help fight infection
How To Get Started?
Exercise doesn’t have to mean running or going on a lengthy hike. Take it slow – start by breaking up your exercise sessions, and then adjust as needed. Do short bursts of activity throughout your day if you can’t do it all at once; some movement is better than none!
Start with two 15 minute sessions a day and work up to meeting a goal of 30 minutes. Consider keeping an exercise log to track your progress and highlight the times you meet your goals. Use motivating music to keep your pace. Most of all, keep it fun!
6 simple beginner exercises you can do at home:
Squat to strengthen your legs and core, which will make everyday movements easier. Starting with a chair underneath you will help you master proper form.
- Stand in front of the chair with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly out.
- Hinging at your hips and bending your knees, lower back and down until your bottom touches the chair, allowing your arms to extend out in front of you.
- Push up through your heels and return to the starting position.
A beginner-style pushup that will help you build strength before attempting a standard pushup.
- Get into a high plank position from your knees.
- Maintaining a straight line from your head to your knees, bend your elbows to lower yourself down to the ground. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle.
- Push back up to start.
Hit your quads, hamstrings, and glutes with a stationary lunge.
- Split your stance with your right leg in front. Your right foot should be flat on the ground, and your left foot should be up on its toes.
- Bend your knees and lunge, stopping when your right thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Push up through your right foot to return to the starting position. Repeat for desired number of reps, then switch legs.
Straight Leg Donkey Kick
Build those glutes with donkey kicks.
- Get on all fours, with your hands aligned with your shoulders and your knees aligned with your hips.
- Keeping your back straight, push your right foot out to the imaginary wall behind you while keeping your leg straight.
- Your foot should remain flexed (toes pointing down to the floor) throughout. Take care to keep your hips square to the ground. Squeeze your buttocks at the top.
- Return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of reps. Repeat on the other leg.
- Assume a plank position on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line from head to feet.
- Ensure your lower back and hips don’t sag. Hold the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Put your hands behind your head.
- Crunch up and bring your right elbow to your left knee, straightening your right leg.
- Release the crunch slightly. Bend your right leg and straighten your left leg, then bring your left elbow to your right knee.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Brandi LeBlanc, CPT
Barbelle Beauty Fitness