Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, this is a question that I’ve been asked a lot.
From what I have read, learnt and understood, if you have a good digestive system and gut health with the correct balance of bacteria in them, then your immune system has a better chance of being able to fight off infection.
However, can exercise also help to boost the immune system? There are a few schools of thought.
It is said that if good diet can help to contribute to a strong immune system, then exercise can contribute to a good health and therefore immunity as well. Add to this the fact that exercise can help you to maintain a healthy weight and that scientists and health professionals believe being overweight can increase your risk of catching infections, then this supports the idea that exercise can contribute to good immunity. That sounds simple enough.
Let’s explore this in a bit more depth. It is suggested that exercise helps support the production of white blood cell which can identify viruses and bacteria, binding to them to kill them off. It's a defence mechanism that works fairly well in keeping the body free from the likes of colds and flu. This does makes sense.
Additionally, exercise is really good for improving our circulation, which means that white blood cells are able to move more easily around the body. As a result, they are better able to reach pathogens and viruses and tackle infection. This is an interesting concept and it is said that this can help with mainly upper respiratory tract infections. However, no one knows whether these changes actually help prevent infections.
To be honest, it’s not really known why exercise may or may not increase immunity, but here are a few more theories to explore a bit more.
One reason could be that exercise may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways which may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.
Another reason could be exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness. Stress is a large topic and how it can manifest itself into physical problems. Infection may be the first of a lot of physical problems and this is something that resonates with me.
Then comes the question which exercise is good to ‘build’ your immunity. I have read that HITT training (high intensity training) is the best way. Intense workout for 30 seconds and rest for 10 seconds and repeat. However, what if you cannot do high intensity training like most 1st Step clients?
Overdoing exercise can cause problems as well. Too much intense, heavy, long-term exercise may not actually increase your immunity and could in fact cause you harm.
Studies have shown that people who follow a moderately energetic lifestyle, benefit most from starting (and sticking to) an exercise program.
A moderate programme can consist of:
· Taking daily 20 to 30 minute walks
· Going to the gym regularly.
· Playing golf regularly
· Joining a low impact or chair-based class
In conclusion, there is no strong evidence to prove that exercising lowers the chance of illness or infections. However, there is no denying that exercise makes you feel healthier and more energetic. It can help you feel better about yourself and the overall feeling is that if you feel good you will be good. What are your thoughts?
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