Burton: Exercise and your immune system
Without an immune system, we would stand no chance in the face of sickness and disease. Fortunately for us, Mother Nature did give us an immune system, and it helps us each day to fend off everything from the common cold to the flu.
Considering the state the world is in, a lot of people have been asking how they can improve their immune systems, and one of the best ways is to exercise regularly.
Exercise improves your immune system in both direct and indirect ways. Directly, exercise has been thought to flush bacteria out of your respiratory tract, and exercise has been shown to increase white blood cell counts in individuals. White blood cells are also known as leukocytes, and are our immune cells.
By increasing our white blood cell count, exercise directly improves our bodies' abilities to fight infection and disease. But perhaps the most profound improvement to our immune system through exercise is not caused directly, rather it is indirectly brought about by our exercise routines.
Exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, and for many people, it acts as a stress reducing therapeutic hobby. Although stress may seem like a random emotion that can come and go whenever, excess stress can create an inhibited immune system, increasing your likelihood to get sick. Seeing as exercise reduces stress, you can increase white blood cells, reduce stress, and get in better shape all at the same time. What's not to love?
But wait, there's more! With exercise comes the need for better fuel for your body, so you can have the energy to exercise. As it turns out, eating healthy also boosts your immune system. By eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, you increase the number of micronutrients your body receives, which directly boosts your immune function.
Another indirect way exercise benefits immune function is by improving your sleep patterns. Studies have shown that exercise increases the amount of "slow wave," a.k.a. "deep sleep," you get every night. Increased deep sleep also has been shown to improve immune function. Another way exercise benefits your immune system is by helping you to maintain a healthy body weight, as excess body weight has been shown to increase the likelihood for disease.
Now, I fully understand the concern that in order to benefit from exercise, you may need to get up and start training like you're going to compete in the Boston Marathon next month, but luckily, that's not the case.
Most studies show that in order to get the previously mentioned benefits, it's enough to go to the gym every other day, or to participate in a low intensity exercise like walking for 30 minutes every day. So, if I told you that you could lose weight, sleep better, eat better, boost your immune system, and become happier, all by walking down the sidewalk for thirty minutes a day, would you do it? I think you should definitely try to.
While it may be hard to start up a workout program, it's absolutely worth it. The increase in quality of life you obtain from exercising is practically immeasurable.
You shouldn't go through life never knowing what your body is truly capable of. Make the change in your life and start exercising today. Your body, mind, and immune system will thank you.
Will Burton is a personal trainer and the owner of Mobile Training Systems in Sherwood.
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