Our Immune System + Physical Activity

With little to no restrictions in place, and travel and socializing back in full swing, an expected winter rise in Covid cases will likely collide with a resurgent flu season and R.S.V. (respiratory syncytial virus). So, with this threatening trifecta quickly approaching, it's important to start taking better care of our immune system and make it even stronger. 
We can do a handful of the common boosters, like taking vitamins and herbal supplements, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and reducing stress – but one of the biggest pillars known to increase immune health is regular exercise.

Exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects us against a variety of infections and certain cancers. It promotes good circulation, which allows cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. And it also releases endorphins, natural hormones that affect the brain in positive ways, easing pain and promoting a sense of relaxation and wellbeing – all of which relieve stress and help us sleep better. 2, 3 

So, which types of exercise should we be doing?

  • Aerobic Exercise — These fast-paced activities such as running, hiking, cycling and rowing increase your heart rate, build muscle, and make us breathe faster and harder, improving lung capacity.
  • Strength/Resistance Training — This can involve barbells, weight plates, dumbbells, or resistance bands and often consists of focused, isometric reps that bring strength to one muscle group at a time.
  • Flexibility Exercise — This category includes stretching, foam rolling, yoga, Thai Chi, and pilates — anything that enables us to lengthen and elongate hard-worked muscles. 3

The ideal routine involves all three fitness categories that we can work at our own level, slowly increasing over time.

However, while it's beneficial to give our immune system a boost through physical activity, too much exercise can actually cause one’s immune system to weaken. So, it's critical to be gentle with our bodies and allow rest between workouts. It’s recommended that we exercise 3 to 5 days per week for 20-60 minutes at 55%-65% of maximal heart rate. 

And don’t forget that exercise can be fun! Choosing something we love like dancing, walking our dog or doing yoga on the beach is a great way to ensure we'll actually get the workout in, and the happier we feel when being physically active, the more it will benefit our cells.  

“The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years.”  – Deepak Chopra