You spend hours sitting in front of your laptop, working away, and then attending Zoom meetings. Then you decide to change your environment, so what do you do? Shift to the couch and spend the next few hours in front of your TV or your phone. You do this until it’s time for you to go to bed. Does this routine sound familiar to you? If it does, congratulations, you’re slowly evolving into a couch potato. But it’s not your fault.
According to an analysis conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2019, the average American adult spent nearly 6 ½ hours sitting every day. Flashforward to 2021 and the age of COVID. One can imagine that the number must have doubled thanks to new work from home regulations and the lockdown of public spaces.
Unfortunately, this sedentary lifestyle doesn’t bode well for our immunity. You may be wondering what the connection between exercise and the immune system is. Does exercise boost immunity? According to science, yes, it does.
Does working out boost your immune system?
There are various reasons why exercise boosts the immune system. The major one is that people only have a small number of immune cells that circulate the body. Normally, these are concentrated in the lymphoid tissues and organs, such as the spleen. It’s within these organs where your body kills the most viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing microorganisms. We exercise to strengthen our immune system primarily to stimulate the circulation of these cells.
Benefits of exercise for the immune system
We all know exercising is important to us. This is something we’re taught as children. But it’s tough to follow suit as we grow into adults and become busy with our lives. But perhaps after knowing the benefits of exercise on our immune systems, it’ll be easier to follow a healthier lifestyle.
Some of the benefits of exercise that increase immunity
Exercise increases the lymph and blood flow, thus increasing the circulation of immune cells. They end up roaming through the body at a higher rate and in higher numbers. These include natural killer cells and T cells that find viruses and other pathogens and destroy them. In a study, participants who went on a 45-minute walk had more immune cells traveling in their bodies. This effect was seen to last for 3 hours after the walk. Then you’ll need to repeat the exercise to produce the same circulation.
Exercise also decreases inflammation in the body. That helps improve immunity by allowing the cells to work in an environment that isn’t inflamed. It helps them defeat unwanted bodies in your body.
What exercises boost the immune system?
Many exercises help boost your immune system. These include exercises that you can do while sitting. If you’re keen on something more challenging, try strength and physical training or aerobic exercises such as walking, running, and hiking. Some of the more interesting exercises involve HIIT and yoga.
Let’s explore a few of these.
1. Breathing exercises to boost your immune system
Does deep breathing help the immune system? Yes, there are many benefits of deep breathing exercises to boost the immune system. It strengthens the tissues, glands, and organs. It can release anxiety, depression, and stress. Breathing exercises may remove and improve heart ailments and increase overall blood circulation, which in turn may cleanse your immune system and cures many problems. Try a few of these breathing techniques:
- Cat and cow breathing exercises
- Bee breath (Bhramari Pranayama)
- The dog breathing exercise
- Bhastrika Pranayama
2. How does physical activity improve the immune system?
Does all physical activity boost immunity? It does. Here, we’re talking specifically about strength training and the immune system. How this helps is that when we lift weights, our muscle tears due to the training. The body then releases monocytes and neutrophils, which help repair any damaged muscle tissue after a strenuous workout. These are a part of the body’s natural killer cells and white blood cells that fight disease-causing pathogens.
Keep in mind that overtraining is bad for immunity. That stresses the body, which leads to the release of cortisol—the stress hormone. If you’re into lifting weights—do so with caution. Always ensure you’re consuming a balanced meal along with doing physical activity that improves the immune system.
3. Aerobic exercises for the immune system
Running, walking, and hiking all have immune system benefits. They all improve the circulation of immune cells throughout your body. Additionally, they help you keep your levels of stress in check. Running daily has many immune system benefits. It decreases inflammation in the body, which is good for building immunity. Even walking is a good exercise to build immunity. Like we discussed above, it was found that even a 20 – 25 minute walk can help you.
4. High Intensity, Interval Training (HIIT)
Can performing high-intensity exercise help the immune system? Absolutely. HIIT exercises have become very popular lately. These are short but high in intensity: perfect for those who have less time on their hands. These exercises involve rapid and repetitive motions. This high intensity or exhaustive exercise strengthens the immune system by rapidly increasing circulation, thus increasing the flow of those important cells. High-intensity training is a quick boost to the immune system and has many other benefits too. The best part is you can do HIIT exercises at home in a matter of minutes watching a YouTube video.
5. Yoga for the immune system
Yoga is excellent for the immune system. Various techniques can help you strengthen yourself and increase circulation. Yoga for immunity is recommended by many healthcare professionals as a supplement. It combines breathing exercises, gentle stretching, and occasionally aerobics if you have the stamina for that. Yoga is dynamic and combines all the above exercises. What’s even better is that you can create a yoga routine that suits you personally. There are different postures according to your age, body type, etc.
How can you improve your immune system using yoga?
There are many postures in yoga for immunity development. These help your respiratory system, strengthen your vital organs, and lubricate the joints and muscles. Embark on a program that lasts for 8 to 12 weeks. You can practice yoga every day or even as little as once a week to reap its benefits. Each session can be between 30 to 90 minutes. Practice regularly and consistently for the maximum effects.
A few poses recommended for boosting your immune system are:
- The mountain pose
- The tree pose
- The big toe pose
- The triangle pose
- The chair pose
- The cobra pose
- The fish pose
Practicing these will increase your air circulation, blood circulation, regulate your stress levels, and help you keep fit and healthy.
The past few years have made us all realize how important it is to prepare our immune systems against freak occurrences. As they say, prevention is better than cure. Including even one or two of these exercises in our lives would help us in the long run. It doesn’t matter what you start with as long as you start.