Does Exercise Build the Immune System?
As of September 22, 10:29 P.M we have officially said “so long to Summer,” and welcomed in the Fall Equinox. The color of the foliage will offer some of the most beautiful scenery nature has to offer. Unfortunately, this season usually brings the cold and flu with it. Many people will protect themselves with the flu shot, but did you know that working out can also help to fight off the common cold? Exercise not only helps your immune system fight off simple bacterial and viral infections, it decreases your chances of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Scientists do not really know how exercise increases your immunity to certain illnesses, but different theories are being tested. Exercising regularly improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. Another theory is physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs, decreasing the chance of a cold and flu, or other airborne illness. This same process may flush out cancer-causing cells by increasing output of wastes, such as urine and sweat. Others may argue that exercise sends antibodies and white blood cells through the body at a quicker rate. As these antibodies or white blood cells circulate more rapidly, they could detect illnesses earlier than they might normally. The increased rate of circulating blood may also trigger the release of hormones that “warn” immune cells of intruding bacteria or viruses.
Be careful of exercising too much. Yes, there is such a thing as too much. “People who already exercise regularly are cautioned not to develop too vigorous a workout program in the hopes of increasing the immunity benefits. Heavy, long-term exercise (such as marathon running and intense gym training) could actually decrease the amount of white blood cells circulating through the body and increase the presence of stress-related hormones,” according to an article published by Medline Plus.
Some scientists are trying to take the next step to determine whether exercise directly affects a person’s susceptibility to infection. For example, some researchers are looking at whether extreme amounts of intensive exercise can cause athletes to get sick more often or somehow impairs their immune function. According to Harvard Medical School, “While some changes have been recorded, immunologists do not yet know what these changes mean in terms of human immune response. No one yet knows, for example, whether an increase in cytokines is helpful or has any true effect on immune response.”
Have a little cold or the flu? Do you usually get the cold or flu like symptoms this time of year? Maybe you don’t have either, but don’t want to take any chances. Grab your Vivofit by Garmin and challenge yourself to a nice 30 minute walk, or maybe you’d like to grab yourself a Polar Loop Activity Monitor and put together a workout routine. Whatever you do, Be Active, Be Fit, Be Healthy!