Boost Your Immune System with Exercise

Your immune system, the body's ability to protect itself from foreign invaders such as viruses, disease and infection, can get a serious boost from exercise.

That's not just my opinion, but is cofirmed in many studies.

Your white blood cells are the small army within your blood that go to battle whenever a potential infection (the bad guys) is introduced. You want your white blood cells to be plentiful and fresh.

If your immune system is weakened or diseased, then you need more help than exercise will give, but, a broad spectrum of studies confirm that moderate exercise can help sustain and strengthen it, even when the effects are indirect.

Moderate, regular exercise helps the immune system by moderating the effects of stress. Lowered stress has a beneficial effect on your health. High, constant stress is detrimental to your health.

Most studies carried out over the last 30 years agree: a continual high level of stress has a number harmful effects on overall health. People who experience high stress get more colds, suffer more digestive tract problems and have more frequent bouts of fatigue. Part of the latter is indirect, since it tends to lead to lowered amounts of restful sleep.

Regular exercise helps relieve stress. It does so directly, by providing an outlet for, and consuming much of, the nervous energy produced by stress. It also helps indirectly by shifting one's focus away from the external factors producing the stress.

Exercise helps the cardiovascular system, improves blood flow, flushes away toxins from muscles and organs, and helps keep the kidneys and endocrine system working well. It helps remove germs and circulate antibodies.

All those promote a healthy immune system by lessening the body's susceptibility to disease, while increasing the strength of the immune system itself.

Exercising increases the body temperature slightly. This, as anyone who has suffered from a cold knows, is the body's natural response to colds, flu and other diseases. The increased temperature helps kill the infecting organisms.

A study at the University of Colorado, Boulder suggests that moderate exercise helps prevent colds as well. It showed that individuals are less likely to get sick after stressful situations when they had engaged in a regular program of moderate exercise. Those who began exercise only on the same day as the stressor didn't enjoy those benefits. The secret is to exercise regularly.

The study was carried out on rats, but one of the reasons those mammals are used is the similarity to humans in some systems, and their responses, .

Exercise programs, undertaken consistently and correctly, help improve body image - that's one of most individuals primary goals in making the effort, after all. That improved body image often leads to higher levels of confidence and relaxation in social situations. That in turn helps reduce stress and enhance the immune system.

Whether the effects are direct or indirect, exercising can help you support and enhance your immune system. That leads directly to better overall health.

Your immune system is also strengthened with good nutrition:

  • Vitamin C is a big-time immune booster
  • Vitamin E. This important antioxidant and immune booster doesn't get as much press as vitamin C, yet it's important to a healthy immune system.
  • Carotenoids. Beta carotene increases the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and helper T-cells, as well as being a powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals that accelerate aging.
  • Bioflavenoids. A group of phytonutrients called bioflavenoids aids the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against environmental pollutants.
  • # Zinc. This valuable mineral increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively.
  • # Garlic. This flavorful member of the onion family is a powerful immune booster that stimulates the multiplication of infection-fighting white cells, boosts natural killer cell activity, and increases the efficiency of antibody production.
  • Selenium. This mineral increases natural killer cells and mobilizes cancer-fighting cells.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. A study found that children taking a half teaspoon of flax oil a day experienced fewer and less severe respiratory infections and fewer days of being absent from school.

    For more on boosting your immune system see Dr. Sears and the immune system.


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