With so many great reasons to exercise, you might not have considered it’s benefits on your immune system, until now. With the Coronavirus circulating, we’re all looking for ways to keep our immune systems strong.
There is no evidence that exercise will boost immunity against the coronavirus specifically, but physical activity has been shown to be a protective measure against respiratory illness in general.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that even a single workout can improve your body’s ability to fight off a virus. Even walking (something we can all do while we’re sheltering in place) at a brisk pace can help your body improve cardiovascular function and strengthen your immune system.
Part of the reason for this is that physical activity releases a flood of immune-boosting cells into your bloodstream. Exercise also reduces stress, which is a major factor that suppresses immune function in the body. While this pandemic affects us all in different ways, being in a global crisis has us in a heightened state of stress across the board.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get moving in and around your home. Things like yoga, bodyweight workouts, free fitness classes, neighborhood walks and gardening are ways to keep your activity level up while fitness facilities are closed.
Encourage your entire family to join in. The immune boosting benefits are just as relevant in the older population as they are in young kids. Everyone benefits from keeping their body moving, which is a great reason for your entire household to stay as active as possible during this time.
One thing to be cautious of is the tendency to believe that more exercise will lead to better results. That’s not the case. Moderate exercise (30-60 minutes per day, depending on your fitness level and the activity) is ideal. Challenging yourself beyond what you’re used to (in length or intensity of exercise) can actually compromise the immune benefits of being active.
Periods of intense training (like preparing for a marathon) have shown a detrimental effect on immunity, specifically respiratory infections. This is one reason it’s important to train according to your own personal limits. Right now, during this global pandemic, is not the best time for you to take on an intense training regime, especially if your body isn’t used to it.
The best exercise prescription for boosting immunity is to focus on moderate to vigorous workouts under 60 minutes, most days of the week. Offset your activity by alternating the different activities you do. For example, if you go for a long run on Monday choose an active rest like a yin yoga class the following day to balance out the benefits for your body.
Recovery is where a lot of your exercise “gains” are made. Make sure you’re sleeping well and getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, in addition to eating properly to fuel your body for recovery.
If you want to make the most of your time during this pandemic, definitely keep your body moving. Like the coronavirus, the rewards of your exercise (physically and mentally) will be around long after the country reopens.