Proper nutrition and supplementation to boost the immune system have become very popular in the last couple of years. They can make a big difference in one’s ability to fight viruses. They can also impact an illness’s duration, gravity, and recovery time.
Can exercise strengthen the immune system as well?
Studies show that moderate physical activity fortifies the immune system, translating into fewer days of sickness with common colds and other respiratory tract infections.
Our immune system ages, just as the rest of our body does.
A study published in the Journal of Sports and Health Science demonstrated that exercise activates pathogen and inflammation-fighting immune cells throughout the body, slowing down the effect of aging on immune strength.
When you exercise, you flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, triggering changes in antibodies to help fight diseases.
Strength training offers additional benefits.
For example, when you do strength training, you activate specific white blood cells like monocytes & neutrophils, which help repair damaged muscle tissue from a weight lifting workout. These cells are part of the body’s innate immune system and critical to its proper functioning.
Unfortunately, many people still associate strength training with bodybuilding and automatically feel it is not for them; they don’t like the gym or just don’t want to get bulky. They think:” I don’t want to look like that.” They don’t realize that the health industry has built million-dollar gyms with extensive improvement in equipment ergonomics and environment logistics to create a positive experience and make the facilities accessible, enjoyable, and affordable to the general public and those with special conditions. For example, people recovering from severe injuries who were told they would never walk again can have easy wheelchair access to regain strength and mobility and recover faster. The elderly can get stronger to conquer debilitating weakness. Those with PTSD, injuries and regular individuals who simply want to slow down the aging process and improve the quality of their lives can enjoy the fantastic benefits of strength training in a safe environment.
In recent years, extensive research about strength training has been shown to significantly help prevent and recover from diseases such as osteoporosis, cancers, diabetes, and heart diseases.
Lifting weights must be the first consideration of defense against losing muscle strength, especially as we continually lose muscle mass as we grow older. Starting to lift weights at a younger age rather than becoming older makes the journey easier.
A word of caution
While a healthy dose of diet and exercise is recommended, it is possible to exercise excessively, which causes harm to the body. Overtraining, or too many boot camps, HIIT, or CrossFit sessions can lead to increased cortisol levels. Prolonged elevated levels of cortisol result in immune deficiency and are counterproductive. It can lead to injuries, digestive issues, problems with concentration, impaired memory, headaches, heart disease, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, weight gain, and frequent colds.
The key to immune health is to exercise safely and effectively.
Here are some points to remember:
- Consistency is key
- Do strength training, cardio, and stretching
- Take time to recover
- Get outdoors
Consistency is key:
To get results and affect the immune system, you must exercise regularly, as physical activity has a cumulative effect. While every little bit helps, lack of consistency will lead you to take 1 step forward and then 2 steps backward, never achieving the results you are looking for and leading to frustration, potentially quitting.
Do strength training, cardio, and stretching:
While past research has primarily focused on the impact of aerobic activities on immune health, more recent studies, have shown that maintaining healthy muscle mass through strength training affects the body’s immune system on a cellular level.
Optimum health is achieved by incorporating weight training 2 to 3 times per week, cardio such as a brisk walk, swimming, hiking 2 to 3 times a week. To prevent injuries, stretching is to be done after training, when your muscles are warmed up.
Take time to recover:
Getting enough rest has physiological and psychological benefits. Exercise depletes the body’s stores (muscle glycogen) and causes muscle tissue to break down. Recovery time enables the muscles to repair themselves. Results happen during recovery time.
There are 2 types of recovery you can do on your rest day
- Passive recovery
Take the day off entirely from exercise.
- Active recovery
Engage in low-intensity activity such as walking.
The frequency and duration of rest time will depend on the intensity and frequency of the activity. Make sure to get enough sleep. The harder you train, the more sleep you will need.
Inadequate recovery time can lead to injuries and illnesses.
Research has found that overtraining can increase body fat, increase the risk of dehydration, lower your libido, and cause depression.
Walking barefoot in nature grounds the body and enables your feet to draw in the earth’s electrical charges. The results are improved sleep, reduced inflammation, and improved immunity.
Exposure to sunlight further promotes healthy immunity by increasing the body’s levels of the immune system supporting vitamin D.
Ditching the treadmill to enjoy a brisk walk on the beach or in the woods can have many additional benefits, such as improving your overall feelings of wellbeing and reducing anxiety.
The bottom line
To keep your immune system strong and healthy, take adequate supplementation, eat healthily and exercise with moderation. Use common sense, but remember that when you incorporate strength training in your weekly routine, you’ll get stronger faster, fight illnesses easier, and age more gracefully.
Stay strong and dare to live young.