As soon as we think of building immunity, often we end up searching for medications and supplements. Do you know that simply following general good-health guidelines can keep the immune system strong and healthy naturally? Yes, you heard that right. Just having healthy-living strategies such as exercise, a balanced diet, a healthy lifestyle, and adequate sleep can enhance immune function.
Often, we experience a brief rise in respiratory rate and body temperature during and after a workout. But fail to realize that, unknowingly body flushes out organisms from the airways and prevents them from growing. This way exercise acts like a primary defense mechanism to get rid of cold, flu, or other illness. Also, exercise contributes directly by promoting more rapid circulation of highly specialized immune cells such as natural killer cells (predominantly white blood cells of the innate immune system that control several types of tumours and microbial infections by limiting their spread and subsequent tissue damage)and T cells(leukocyte type of WBC, that determine the specificity of immune response to antigens), so they could do their job efficiently than before.
Many of us are unaware that the intestinal micro flora (the good microorganisms; bacteria and fungi that live in the digestive tract) also have an equal role to play in building strong innate immunity. They are essential for the maturation and functionality of the immune cells. Interestingly, studies have proved that exercise can enrich the beneficial micro flora that modulate mucosal immunity (Immune system responses that occur at mucosal membranes of the intestines) and improve barrier functions to maintain immune homeostasis.
Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the world realise the importance of immunity as people with low immune responses are being affected first. Also, public health actions, such as social distancing, making people feel isolated and lonely; causing an increase in the incidents of anxiety and depression day by day. The question may strike to your mind that does stress have an effect on our immune system?? Yes, chronic stress can influence the body to release stress hormones such as Adrenaline, Cortisol, Nor epinephrine that severely depresses the effectiveness of the immune system making us susceptible to illness and disease. Some experts claim that stress is responsible for as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Regular aerobic exercise can influence several immune functions by producing endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers, and mood elevators. These will bring remarkable changes to our body, metabolism, heart, and spirits. It has a unique capacity to counter depression and dissipate stress.
Now the question arises, which kind of exercises can yield the maximum benefits? They say that regular exercise such as walking, yoga, swimming, or others for at least 30 minutes for three days a week can add a lot in boosting immunity. We are need to take a note that aging makes the immune system weak and people become prone to various diseases. In such cases, a simple step towards a healthy lifestyle can bring a big difference. Short-term practice can help in fighting against pathogens, while long term, regular moderate exercise promotes an anti-inflammatory environment that protects against chronic inflammatory conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity even in older age groups.
Although exercising seems to be the simplest way to boost immunity, on the other hand, more vigorous exercise can suppress immune function temporarily. Researches showed that 90 minutes of high-intensity exercise can make a person susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours following exercise sessions. Thus, this kind of suppression is most commonly seen in athletes and other high-performance personnel, such as military members.
Besides exercise, other factors such as healthy lifestyle and intake of a balanced diet contribute differently to enhance the immune system. Overall a healthy lifestyle is important to keep the immune system in a fighting mode against pathogens and to protect ourselves from diseases. For instance, several studies have shown that White blood cells among vegetarians are more effective when compared to non vegetarians, due to low intake of fat. Whereas high-fat diets are expected to alter the gut microbiota that aid in immunity. Hence choose your diet wisely.