exercise-and-immune-systemDoes Exercise Influence Your Immune System?

If you are reading this, then the suggestion that exercise is good for you is no surprise. You may not be following a dedicated exercise routine, but you at least are aware you are supposed to.

We have often seen studies on how various forms of exercise help maintain bone density, increase muscle mass, reduce fat, improve heart and lung function, reduce stress, heighten moods, and so on. But today we are focusing on what exercise does for the immune system.

Getting the body moving on a moderate level, promoting blood flow, deepening breathing, and increasing range of motion in our joints, work to stimulate the immune system. For the sake of this discussion, “moderate exercise” can be defined as walking, yoga or Tai Chi, riding a bike on level ground, or swimming.  The idea is to get moving at a level that is comfortable to you that will increase your breathing and blood flow.

The increase in blood circulation helps white blood cells and antibodies quickly respond to identified invaders in your body. These unwanted invaders include viruses and bacteria. By increasing the response time for your body’s defenses, you are improving the chance of neutralizing the culprits before they can multiply and establish a fortified defense against you.

One of the workhorses in your immune system is a group of white blood cells known as lymphocytes, which include B-cells and T-cells. Both of these cell-types are instrumental in protecting you from germs and toxins. The key interaction between B- and T-cells, and “invaders”, occurs in your lymph glands, and an activator of your lymphatic system is deep breathing. Further, the movement of your arms and legs provide a pumping action that help stimulate the circulation of lymph fluid throughout your system.

This time of year is often accompanied by stressors that can mess with our heads; anxiety, depression, moodiness, etc.  It is always amazing how a little activity seems to decompress the mind, and lift the spirit, with something as simple as going for a walk.

Oxygen also plays a role in improving your immune system.  Starting way back in 1931 (when Otto Warburg was awarded his Nobel Prize for research on the link between cancer and adequate oxygen to the cells), there has been a growing body of evidence indicating the link between immune deficiency and reduced oxygen metabolism.

The main theme of this discussion is that it benefits us to simply get moving.  However, it should be noted that — like many instances where too much of a good thing can be bad — too much exercise will actually suppress the immune system. Folks who are serious about intense athletic endeavors can find themselves “over-trained”, feeling lethargic and susceptible to every cold the kids bring home.  For those of us who partake in the higher demands of intense activities, a dedicated routine of exaggerated levels of antioxidant supplementation and disciplined rest periods are vital for staying on our feet.

One more aspect of moderate exercise is the mental connection.  Holiday events, extended weekends, and even family vacations are often accompanied by stressors that can mess with our heads; anxiety, depression, moodiness, etc.  It is always amazing how a little activity seems to decompress the mind, and lift the spirit, with something as simple as going for a walk.

So, the next time the “good times” begin to press you down, get up and move… and I don’t mean to Miami.  I mean simply stand up and start moving. It’s good for you.

This is part 2 of a 4-part series.4 Ways to Boost the Immune System

[reprinted from Applied Health Journal No.118]

[Applied Health Publications are registered in the United States Library of Congress, ISSN: 1525-6359]