How many people reading this article enjoy being bogged down by a cold or flu infection? Of course: no one.
Because of this fact, many people are interested in how they can leverage physical activity to bolster their immune system and minimize the frequency, severity, and duration of illness.
Plenty of studies have pointed to the positive effects of physical fitness when it comes to frequency and severity of illnesses like colds and flu. In one study, those who were aerobically active and physically fit experienced a 41 percent reduction in upper respiratory tract infection severity and symptoms versus those who were sedentary.
More is not better
What’s particularly interesting, when it comes to the effect of exercise on the immune system, is that research shows more is not always better. The stress that frequent and intense physical activity can put on our body over time may also put a strain on our immune system.
A study looking at the effect of incorporating exercise regimens of different intensity and duration on women who were previously inactive found that although both regimens stimulated the immune activity of white blood cells, there was a greater inflammatory response in those who exercised more intensely.
In the context of our busy and hectic lifestyles, it’s much more likely that most of us get too little physical activity and probably don’t need to worry about compromising our immune systems with excessive exercise.
If you’re currently inactive, increasing physical activity levels, especially through cardiovascular activity, will have positive effects on your body’s immune system, among many other benefits.
Here are three exercises of varying difficulty that will help get you started on the path toward a stronger immune system.
Muscles targeted: full body, chest, legs
- Lower your body into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.
- Shift your weight onto your hands by placing them in front of your feet.
- Jump back softly and land in a plank position, keeping body straight and core tight.
- Jump your feet back, landing outside your hands.
- Jump up, reaching hands in the air.
- Complete 10 repetitions.
Muscles targeted: core
- Lie on your right side, elbow in contact with the ground and beneath your shoulder.
- Place your left hand on your hip, both legs elevated on a bench.
- Engage torso, creating a straight line with your body.
- Keep your abdominal, glute, and quad muscles tight.
- Hold for 60 seconds, and repeat on your left side.
Muscles targeted: shoulders, hamstrings, lower back
- Start on your hands and knees with hands below shoulders, knees below hips.
- Tuck your toes, spread your fingers.
- Lift your knees off the floor and press your hips toward the ceiling while drawing your heels down toward the floor.
- Press your hands into the floor, push your shoulder blades against your back, and pull them down toward your tailbone.
- Breathe, holding for 60 seconds.