Exercise helps us to lose weight, ward off diseases, such as heart disease, and most importantly, keeps the body and all its systems in good working order. Many people, however, aren’t aware of an added benefit of regular exercise. Studies show that moderate exercise can actually boost the human immune system.
What is The Immune System?
The job of the immune system is to protect the body from infectious microorganisms, such as harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses, and to destroy any that do invade the body. The immune system is comprised of a network of cells and organs that work together to protect the body from infection. If the immune system is not working properly, it can leave the body open to many diseases and disorders. These include: allergies, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and even AIDS. So, it is vitally important that the immune system healthy in order to keep us healthy. Following are 10 ways that exercise can boost the immune system.
1. Production of Antibodies
As you are exercising, your body is producing antibodies. Antibodies are a protein produced by the immune system that seek out and kill harmful antigens, such as bacteria and viruses. Exercise can increase the production of antibodies by up to 300 percent. These antibodies stay in the body, ready to jump into action whenever they are needed.
2. Rise in Body Temperature
We get fevers in response to infection, bacteria and viruses. The higher temperature helps to kill the offending agent, speeding up recovery. When we exercise, the body temperature experiences a temporary rise as well. Studies show that this rise in body temperature can help to inhibit bacterial growth, and aid the immune system in fighting off infection.
3. Increased Flushing-out of Harmful Substances
The immune system benefits from physical activity by helping the lungs to flush out bacteria that cause colds and the flu much faster than in a sedentary person. Exercise can also flush out carcinogens, or cancer-causing cells, from the body in the form of sweat and urine.
4. Faster Travel for Antibodies and White Blood Cells
We learned about antibodies, and how they protect the body from illness and infection. White blood cells are known as the body’s defense cells. They circulate throughout the body, looking for infection to fight. Exercise helps the immune system to do its job more efficiently by sending these antibodies and white blood cells through the body more quickly through faster-circulating blood.
5. Relieving Stress
Exercise decreases the feelings of chronic stress in a person’s daily life. People who exercise regularly generally experience less emotional stress than those who don’t. Scientists have discovered that excess stress can delay the production of antibodies, causing longer illnesses. Stress can also have a negative impact on the network of systems that need to work together closely to be effective. These are the immune system, the nervous system and the endocrine system.
6. Increased Interleukin
Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that fight infection. Interleukin 1 helps these cells to reach infection sites and produce fever to fight infection. Exercise increases the production of interleukin 1, thus stimulating the immune system to rev up its lymphocyte activity.
7. Increased Production of Interferon
Interferon provides protection from millions of germs that cause infection and disease. Interferon is crucial in preventing infection by activating immune cells that kill invading pathogens. Moderate exercise can increase the production of interferon for about 2 hours. This means that regular exercise can keep interferon production up over the long term.
8. Faster Breathing
The lymphatic system needs to work at its best to be able to filter out contaminants, make antibodies and more lymphatic cells. The best way for this to happen is by faster lymph movement through deep breathing. Exercise, such as yoga or tai chi promote deep breathing and reduce stress as well.
9. Strength Training
Strength training boosts the immune system by building muscle, which produces glutamine, an amino acid that our immune cells need in order to thrive. Building muscle helps the body to fight off disease as well as developing a strong, healthy body.
10. Lower Incidence of Colon Cancer
There are many carcinogens that travel throughout the digestive system, and the longer they stay there, the higher the risk of colon cancer. Exercise speeds up the digestive tract, moving food and carcinogens through faster so that the body can be rid of them.
It is clear that there are distinct benefits that exercise offers the immune system. The important thing to remember is that moderate exercise is the key, as too much may make the body more susceptible to colds and infection. Start by walking for 30 minutes 5 times per week to stay fit. Your immune system will stay fit as well, keeping you healthy and better able to fight off disease!
Author Bio: Kara Taylor is attending a culinary arts school so that she can further pursue her passion in nutrition through not only exercise, but cooking as well.