One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say “They are so skinny, why are they working out? They don’t even need to!”. That is wrong on so many levels, but the most glaring – EVERYONE NEEDS TO EXERCISE! This one ranks right up there with dieting gimmicks of “Use this product and you can lose weight and don’t even need to exercise!”. Unfortunately, there is so much information on fitness and nutrition out there, that it is hard to understand what we really need.
Here are a few basic reasons we need to exercise and then I will get into the role it plays in our immune system:
- It reduces stress and is an important factor in mental health– I think we could all use that right now.
- It helps to keep you at a healthy level of body fat (notice I didn’t say weight)
- It’s good for the heart and for maintaining bone density
- It regulates your body systems including, digestive, circulatory and nervous among others.
- It aides in healthy brain function
So how does exercise relate to immunity and why is this important?
While there is ongoing research in immunology, we do know that exercise increases the circulation of white blood cells, which are our bodies immune system cells that fight disease.
Exercise also reduces the level of stress hormones and the less stress hormones you have, the better your body is able to fight against illness.
Once you start an exercise program and continue with some form of exercise most days of the week as part of your long term healthy lifestyle, you will see even more benefits to your body as a whole which, in turn, keeps your immune system strong.
What regular exercise actually looks like is not what you might think. For maximum effect exercise can have on the immune system and body as a whole, you should walk at a moderate pace about 30min most days of the week (5-7). It only gets better from there! Add in a couple of days of resistance training to keep the bones strong and muscle to support you, which helps with many other body systems. Choosing an activity the challenges your brain at the same time can help fight off dementia. Basketball, dancing, tennis, outdoor cycling, etc are forms of exercise that help increase/maintain cognitive function as we age. Resistance training is beneficial even if it’s just using body weight. On your 30min walk, stop every 10minutes and do 10 squats, 10 push-ups, 10 lunges. Mix it up with some other body weight exercises each time you walk and you have hit your exercise goals!
You don’t have to be extreme with anything, just be consistent. And don’t tell me you don’t have 30min to go for a walk, lol! Make the the time like your life depends on it…….because, in a way it does. The healthier you are, the easier it will be to handle all of the challenges life brings, mentally and physically.
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