The 4 Best Exercises To Boost Immune Function & Why
Getting your body moving is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Statistics have shown that close to 80% of all Americans lack adequate amounts of exercise in their daily lives – and given the fact that exercise can help mitigate the development of certain chronic diseases, that number is alarmingly high. Research has shown that a lack of exercise can lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease, metabolic syndrome, stroke, cognitive dysfunction, fatty liver disease, and much more.
Countless studies have also shown that by increasing levels of exercise, risk for chronic diseases decreases, and many could be prevented completely. This means that exercise could essentially keep you healthier long into your older years, which is when many people develop chronic illness. An equally vital aspect of human health is the function of the immune system. But how does exercise affect the immune system? And can working out boost immune function? Let’s find out.
Does exercise improve immune function?
The immune system requires a lot of different areas of the body to be running at their best for it to function properly. One such factor that goes into immune health is the level of exercise a person gets. There are several different theories surrounding the topic; some experts believe that exercise flushes bacteria out of the airways, encourages positive changes in the immune cells that are designed to fight infection, and hinders the release of stress hormones that can increase the risk of developing disease. These theories are not all yet confirmed, but they do back up research about exercise and immunity.
For example, one particular study looked at how exercise could affect the immune system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study looked at the ways exercise could prime the immune system to fight off COVID and found that regularly participating in moderate exercise led to an improved immune competence against pathogens. Exercise also helps because it leads to a healthier weight as well as increased function for many vital organs that can be affected when the body has to fight off an infection.
Which exercise is best for increasing immunity?
Although exercise is good for overall health no matter the type, the way certain exercises help the immune system differs depending on what they offer the body. No two types of exercises will work the same way. For example, walking at a steady pace and jogging are both counted as exercise, but the way they affect the body is a bit different. This is because of the additional strain that is put on the body when performing a jog as compared to a leisurely walk.
Since all types of exercise bring their own special immune-boosting powers to the table, there is not one superior type. The best type of exercise to boost your immune function is the one that you’re going to add into your routine and stick to. For those who don’t know where to start, there are some options depending on what type of exercise you would prefer and what your capabilities are.
1. Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise
Low-impact exercises are great for those who are just getting back into working out or have any limitations that keep them from jumping right into more intense types of exercise. Low-impact workouts are designed to get you moving while being gentler on the body. Walking is one low-intensity workout that can be a great immune booster. Studies have shown that those who walk for a mere 20 minutes a day at least 5 days per week can boost their immune system and prevent cold or flu better than those who did not participate in walking-type exercises. Walking can also be done anywhere, so it’s easy to get into. Hiking is also a good low-intensity workout that is a step up from walking.
Swimming in cold water is another low-impact exercise that can lead to improved immune function. It does this by increasing endorphins; improving circulation, which allows oxygen and other nutrients to circle the body more freely; and reducing stress hormones. This type of low-impact exercise can be a little trickier to get into, but is worth it if you can.
2. High Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is a type of exercise that involves alternating between short bursts of intense anaerobic exercise and recovery periods. Since HIIT is a type of exercise that takes a shorter time to complete, many people may find it doable to fit into their schedules. It can help the immune function, especially in those who suffer from chronic autoimmune disease – but too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad, in this case; studies have shown that HIIT can actually increase inflammatory immune cells. This means that if HIIT is your thing, you should practice it no more than three times per week.
3. Strength Training
Strength training involves repeated weight-lifting. It is designed to increase muscle and encourage weight loss. When it comes to the immune system, strength training can be a great way to give yourself a boost. According to research, lifting weights has been shown to encourage changes in the physiology of the body, which leads to better circulation of immune cells. This means that when you lift weights, you give immune cells a boost to get where they need to go to help fight off pathogens.
4. Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are popular workouts that can help to reduce stress levels and anxiety, increase lean muscle and body strength, and improve posture and flexibility. Studies have shown that those who participate in regular yoga or Pilates practice show improved health markers when it comes to nutrition, stress, management, and physical health. Since diet and stress play significant roles in how well the immune system functions, adding some yoga and Pilates into your workout routine can help your immune health.
Whatever exercise you choose to engage in only matters if you stick with it. Pick one that works for you and your immune system will thank you.