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Exercise for your immunity!

If you want to keep your immunity robust, it is recommended for you to exercise regularly. Along with other important factors like eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and minimising stress, regular physical activity can help to boost your immune system and help you to avoid infections1.

Immunity-boosting balance

First of all, you should remember that exercising can affect your immunity in 2 ways2-4. For example, if you engage in regular but moderate physical activity, your risk of infections are lower than that of a person who leads a sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, if you do a lot of physically demanding endurance exercises, your immune response can actually be suppressed, which will put you at a greater risk of infections. As such, if your goal is to boost your immune system, then moderate and regular exercise is the most appropriate option for you.

How exercise helps to boost your immune system

Physical activity supports your immunity in many ways5. When you exercise, infection-fighting antibodies and white blood cells circulate faster and can detect illnesses earlier. Similarly, exertion can also help to flush out bacteria from your lungs. When body temperature rises during exercise, bacterial growth slows down, which can help your immune system to fight off illnesses such as cold or flu. Besides that, stress hormones are released slower during physical activity, which can help lower the chances of catching illness.

Mother and her child exercising together

Choose an activity you enjoy!

If you want to get active, it’s best to choose a type of activity that suits your lifestyle. If you’re already living an active lifestyle and exercise is part of your daily routine, keep at it, as a more intensive exercise regime will not help to boost your immune system even further5. But if you aren’t particularly active, start by finding the time to exercise several times a week.

  • Walking: You can start going for a walk every day for 20 to 30 minutes. Walking is an easy physical activity to incorporate into your day: you can walk to work instead of taking a bus, or you can take your dog on little adventures to the nearest park and back. You can also meet a friend every day for a chat while walking.
  • Cycling: Increasingly popular with all age groups, cycling is a great way to get a workout in, and get you to where you need to go every day. If you live in a big city with frequent traffic jams, taking a bike ride instead of driving to the office can quickly become a pleasant and relaxing experience during a work day. Alternatively, taking family bike trips is also a great way to bond, have fun, and exercise together.
  • Strength training: When we talk about weights, we normally think about the gym. If going to the gym isn’t your fancy, you can do simple physical activity such as strength exercises like push-ups at home, or even do strength training using household items - large water bottles make for great weights - that can be used to do exercises like arm curls in your kitchen chair.
  • Aerobics: The best thing about aerobic exercises is that you can find hundreds of online videos on great exercise routines by professionals. You can even start doing aerobic exercises with your family or friends and cheer each other on!
  • Swimming: Be it at the beach or the swimming pool, swimming is a physical activity which you can do all-year round. It helps to improve your stamina and general fitness, and does wonders for relaxation too!
  • Football (and other team sports): Team sports are not only a great way to exercise, but also to form and maintain friendships. You can usually find local amateur teams playing football at the nearest field, or you can start a team of your own with friends!
  • Playing with kids: Your kids have boundless energy and they love spending time with you, so why not treat playtime as an opportunity to do physical activity? You can choose to play catch or hide and seek in your backyard, or teach your kids to play a sport, or even go for a family run around the neighbourhood! 

Whichever type of physical activity you choose, exercising is guaranteed to make you feel more energised, and can help to boost your immune system! So start including exercise in your daily routine and enjoy feeling healthier, starting today!

References:

  1. How to prevent infections. Harvard Medical School, 2016. (Accessed 10/02/2020, at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-prevent-infections.)
  2. Cox AJ, Gleeson M, Pyne DB, Callister R, Hopkins WG, Fricker PA. Clinical and laboratory evaluation of upper respiratory symptoms in elite athletes. Clin J Sport Med 2008; 18:438-445.
  3. Cox AJ, Pyne DB, Saunders PU, Callister R, Gleeson M. Cytokine responses to treadmill running in healthy and illness-prone athletes. Med Sci Sport Exerc 2007; 39:1918-1926
  4. Gleeson M, McDonald W, Pyne D, Cripps A, Francis JL, Fricker P et al. Salivary IgA levels and infection risk in elite swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999; 31:67-73
  5. Exercise and immunity https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm


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