Does exercise help your immune system?
Firstly, it’s important to establish what actually constitutes our immune system. Our immune system is the body’s armor against pathogens, infections and viruses. It is made up of a multitude of organs, tissues and cells. The first line of the defensive shield includes the skin, lining of the nose and airways. The next line of defense comprises the tonsils, thymus, spleen, lining of the bladder and the intestines. The inner defensive arrangement is controlled by the bone marrow and lymphatic system.
The immune system is complex and a lot is still unknown about its functions. What we do know is that there are many ways that we can strengthen our immune system, such as: eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, reducing stress and exercising.
How does exercise improve your immune system?
Exercise immunology is a subject of intricate physiology and interestingly, intensity and exercise mode can have different effects on the immune system. Multiple studies comparing sedentary versus active individuals show huge health benefits on the side of the active individuals. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2012) looked at 1002 adults and divided them into active and non-active groups. Over the 3-month period of the study, active individuals had a 43% decreased incidence of respiratory illnesses compared to the non-active group. When we exercise there is increased blood circulation and, in turn, this results in increased cellular activity and mobilisation of macrophages, cytokines and lymphocytes which are essential to fighting pathogens and inflammation. Another important occurrence when we exercise is the reduction in stress hormones that suppress immune cell function.
Exercise is the single best preventative medicine intervention that exists today. The ideal exercise routine to improve immune response is moderate intensity exercise of 60-70% of heart rate reserve (HRR) performed for 45-60 minutes 5 times a week, but of course any exercise is better than none. Not only can exercise help your immune system and reduce the incidence of respiratory illnesses, it reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression, improves digestive health, increases life expectancy and quality of life.
The power is in your hands, legs, back and stomach!
Stay well and healthy