“If exercise were a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medication in the world.” (Emory University School of Medicine)
Are you fighting another cough or cold? Feeling run down and tired all the time? Try this: take a daily walk or follow a simple exercise routine a few times a week.
The documented health benefits of physical activity are vast and growing. We already know that exercise strengthens bones and muscles, helps prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and wards off depression and cognitive impairments.
But a 2019 scientific review in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found that exercise can also improve your immune response, lower illness risk, and reduce inflammation.
Typically our immune cells gather in lymphoid tissues and organs like the spleen, where your body kills viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that cause disease. Moderate exercise — a brisk walk, for example — increases blood and lymph flow, thereby increasing the circulation of immune cells around the body. While this increased immunity declines after a few hours, regular or daily movement encourages immune cells to circulate more often and detect illnesses earlier than they might have before.
One study published in 2011 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those who did aerobic exercise five or more days of the week lowered the number of upper respiratory tract infections (like the common cold) over a 12-week period by more than 40%!
What does a program of moderate exercise look like? Focus on aerobic activity—think walking, jogging, or cycling. The goal is to recruit immune cells into circulation. Aim for between 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. You should be breathing more quickly, able to carry on a conversation but not sing, and develop a sweat after about ten minutes.
If you are older or have health problems and have not been exercising, consult a doctor about how to begin. But do begin!
Daily exercise can become an enjoyable habit. It makes you feel healthier, happier, and more energetic. And new studies show that there is a connection between consistent, moderate exercise and improved immunity.
So go ahead and take that walk! These good habits will benefit both yourself and others, including your children, your relatives, and your community!