The Science Behind Immune System Enhancement From Regular Exercise
Most people know the simple benefits of exercise like building muscle, losing weight, and increasing stamina. However, the benefits of exercise go far beyond these simple benefits. Regular exercise plays a fundamental role in enhancing the immune system. It increases your blood circulation and lowers sugar and cholesterol levels.
Moreover, it improves cardiovascular health, which is directly linked with a sound immune system. You should start by walking, running and gradually doing various physical exercises to improve your circulation and to maintain your body weight. Consequently, it will naturally protect you from a number of diseases.
Exercise benefits our health and immune system both in the short and long run. Short-term benefits of exercise include a decrease in the frequency and severity of infections by fighting harmful pathogens. Long-term benefits of exercise include decreasing the aging phenomena and changes associated with old age. These changes include compromise in cardiovascular and metabolic health, leading to chronic diseases such as hypertension, coronary and other artery diseases, and diabetes.
How Does Exercise Strengthen Your Immune System?
Immunity is the ability of the body to fight against diseases and infectious agents. The immune system plays a vital role in the longevity of human life. It comprises several components. The chief components include white blood cells and biochemicals. Exercise can boost your immune system by increasing the body’s general health, positively affecting immune system components, and enhancing organ system health. Physical and mental wellbeing is crucial for the proper functioning of the immune system. However, emotional stability and healthy lifestyle strategies promote the agility of your body and mind.
In the past 40 years, researchers have performed various clinical trials to determine the effects of exercise on the immune system. According to these researches, exercise enhances the number of white blood cells and chemicals (chemokines and cytokines) in the body that strengthen our immune function. The following changes occur due to exercise:
Cytokines are molecules that allow your cells to talk to each other, and are crucial for healthy immune system function. There are two types of Cytokines including pro-inflammatory (induce inflammation) and anti-inflammatory (prevent inflammation). Cytokines help inflame tissue by directing the cell walls of blood vessels to become more porous by reducing cell-to-cell contact. Production of these cytokines is modified by physical activity and hormonal changes. Muscle contractility increases the production and release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, thus reducing inflammation. The release of cytokines depends upon intensity, duration, and amount of contractile mass.
Exercise increases the number of white blood cells concentration in the bloodstream. The concentration of leukocytes peaks in 30-120 min after exercise and may remain high after 24 hours. The concentration of leukocytes increases due to the splitting of immune cells in the liver, spleen, lungs, and blood cells.
Which Exercise is More Effective at Boosting Your Immunity?
According to researches, the best exercises to boost immune function are constant aerobic exercises, including jogging, running, and bicycling. Weight training or resistance training can also strengthen the immune system, but constant aerobic exercises have more significant effects in strengthening the immune system.
The scientific reason underlying the enhancement of the immune system is the recruitment of immune cells in the circulation, which can be achieved by a moderate-intensity physical activity of 30-40 minutes. You should aim to reach 70% of your maximum heart rate and 60% of your total oxygen volume.
Researchers believe that moderate-intensity exercise has significant benefits in enhancing the immune system. In contrast, extreme exercises can be dangerous and may increase infections’ susceptibility (Open window hypothesis). However, there is limited evidence regarding an increase in the risk of infections after extreme exercise. Many experts rejected this open window hypothesis. These experts believed that susceptibility to infections after intense exercise is due to inadequate diet, disturbed sleep, psychological stress, increased exposure to pathogens during social gatherings such as marathons.
How to Boost Immunity in COVID-19 Times?
These studies about the open window hypothesis can be helpful during COVID-19 times. During the pandemic, exercising in a crowded area may suppress your immune system instead of boosting it. You can boost your immune system by exercising in isolation or less crowded areas. To boost up your immune system, you can take extra measures such as washing hands thoroughly, getting proper sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet.
Exercise Improves Sleep Quality and Enhances Immune System
Exercise improves your sleep by increasing the levels of biochemicals, known as endorphins. These improve your mood, reduces stress, and promote a relaxing effect, thus enhancing sleep. Sleep is vital for the proper functioning of the immune system. During sleep, the immune system releases cytokines hormone, which helps to combat illness. Besides, quality sleep helps in the formation of antibodies. Studies show that people with fewer sleeping hours are more susceptible to infection and viral attacks. So, it is recommended to follow proper exercise and sleep patterns to boost your immune system.
Interested in learning more about the science of sleep? You will want to check out the Sleep Science Coach course from the Spencer Institute.
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