Exercising is good for your heart, your muscles and your mood. Did you know it’s also amazing for your immune system? Recently, scientists discovered that working out boosts your defenses against infections.
Why Is Exercise Important for a Strong Immune System?
There are several reasons why exercise is good for your immune system. When you put them all together, you feel happy, healthy and energized.
1. Physical Activity Reduces Stress Levels
Anxiety weakens your immune system. When you’re not sleeping at night and you feel stressed all day, your body is vulnerable to illness. Exercise to the rescue! Any kind of physical activity can lower stress hormones and get your immune system back on track. Even something as simple as getting some fresh air and going for a walk helps!
2. Exercise Strengthens Your White Blood Cells
White blood cells are the most important part of a healthy immune system. They detect and destroy viruses, bacteria and toxins. When you exercise, your body produces more white blood cells and it speeds up your blood circulation so these defenders act quickly. When your immune system catches harmful invaders right away, you don’t get sick.
3. Working Out Gives You a Mini Fever
Viruses don’t like it hot. That’s why your body triggers a fever when you have an infection: it kills off the invaders. Exercise has a similar effect. As your heart rate increases, so does your core body temperature. That may help destroy viruses before they have a chance to attack.
4. Staying Active Alleviates Inflammation
Regular exercise can lower inflammation all around your body — from sore muscles to tender joints. When your body is fighting a war against chronic inflammation, it has to use a lot of “soldiers.” That can leave your body’s defenses wide open for invaders. By reducing inflammation, exercise lets your immune system deploy “troops” to protect you against viruses instead.
The science doesn’t lie! According to one study, people who exercise at least three times a week are 25% less likely to get a cold.
What Are the Best Exercises for Your Immune System?
The goal with exercise is to boost your heart rate and strengthen your muscles. I like to do a blend of cardio workouts and whole-body strength training.
Excellent Cardio Exercises
What I love about cardio is that it gives you a chance to recharge emotionally while you’re increasing your heart rate. If you have the chance, do these exercises outdoors and watch the stress melt away (and fat, too)!
- Brisk walking
- Mountain biking
- Jumping rope
- Fitness dancing (like Zumba)
My Favorite Strength Training
These are some simple exercises anyone can do at home. Buying a resistance band or free weights isn’t necessary, but they do help with your results. For an extra boost to your strength training exercises, hold each position for a few seconds:
- Planks (like push-ups but holding the position using your elbows)
- Arm raises
- Leg raises
- Side leg raises
You should feel the burn, but you don’t want pain. If lunges make your knees hurt, for example, do leg raises on your back instead.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
Any level of physical activity has benefits for your immune system, but you should aim for moderate- or high-intensity exercises. Start by exercising for 15–30 minutes, three to five days a week. This slims your tummy and helps your body feel great at the same time!