We’ve all known now that being fit and healthy gives you a stronger immune system.
There was a big, recent study that came out and they found that adults that engaged in exercise 5 days a week had 43% fewer days of respiratory symptoms over a 12 week period than those who exercise no more than once a week. Another study found that adults that exercised 3 days a week were 26% less likely to have common cold during a year long period. Those are some pretty impressive numbers. Although if you really think about the logistics of it, it’s not really surprising. While you are working out and training your muscles and body you are also training your respiratory system. Your body adapts to it, you’re training it so your system is going to be stronger and more resilient to infections. BUT the fact that 26% of people even got it? Thats what I think is most important and it sort of highlights the idea that the number one defense against any illness is your immune system. I remember learning this or becoming more aware of this when I knew someone who was being treated for cancer and the chemotherapy absolutely ruined her immune system for a short period of time and she could not be exposed to any virus. Even the common cold could be deadly.
There are other theories in play that have not yet been concluded. For example:
- Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.
- Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before. However, no one knows whether these changes help prevent infections.
- The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)
- Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness.
Fun Fact: The actual study surrounding this is called exercise immunology. It is still considered relatively new but some of the case studies began well over a century ago. The earliest studies basically focused on “exercise-induced changes in basic immune cell counts and function.”
So the next time you’re thinking about ways to protect yourself against the novel coronavirus aside from frequent handwashing, social distancing , and maintaining a balanced diet think about regular exercise as another important aspect of supporting your overall health to boost your immune system. I recommend having a moderately energetic lifestyle, you get the most benefit from starting (and sticking to) an exercise program. A moderate program can consist of:
- Bicycling with your children a few times a week
- Taking daily 20 to 30 minute walks
- Going to the gym every other day
- Playing a sport such as golf regularly
Exercise makes you feel healthier and more energetic. It can help you feel better about yourself. So go ahead, take that aerobics class or go for that walk. You will feel better and healthier for it and it’ll boost your immune system!