Working out and performing regular exercise is a core component of healthy living. The human body is designed and built to move. We are all recommended to walk briskly at least 10 minutes a day. Exercise has many proven health benefits from improving cardiovascular health, increasing bone density, reducing body weight and raising our mood and resilience. You will be pleased to know that exercise also helps maintain a healthy immune system.
By increasing our heart rate beyond its natural resting state, exercise promotes enhanced circulation of white blood cells (WBC). WBC are the infection fighting cells that help reduce bacteria and combat viruses in our bodies. As WBC circulate around the body more rapidly (prompted by exercise and an increased heart rate) they can detect infections earlier and fight them off earlier than may otherwise be the case.
Let’s face it, we all get hot and sweaty when we exercise and if you are like me you will have the face the colour of a tomato after a tough session – not a great look in the gym! This actually may not be a bad thing though. As our body temperature increases it can help fight off any infections that we may have picked up and prevent us from becoming ill. Just as we get a temperature when we are poorly (the body’s natural response to killing off viruses and bacteria), body temperature raised through exercise may help do the same.
Finally, exercise slows down the release of stress hormone, cortisol. High degrees of stress can dampen our immune system and suppress its ability to fight infections.
So yes, exercise is good for us on many levels and is a great way to optimise our immune systems. That said, we shouldn’t over do it. For those of us that are avid gym-goers, runners or triathletes, you will be pleased to know that just 20-30 minutes of exercise, including a brisk walk of at least 10 minutes, 5 times a week can yield the immune boosting results you are looking for!
Author: Laura Stembridge, MSc, CEO InsideOut