With the coronavirus outbreak, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests strengthening our immune system to fight off infections. One of the best ways to do this is through regular exercise, regardless of your age.
Regular exercise allows the immune cells to perform at their best, reduce stress, increase blood flow, and strengthen our antibodies.
Here are the scientific explanations on how exercise can fight off infections, which types of exercise you can do, and other ways to boost your immunity during this pandemic.
Scientific Explanation on How Exercise Fights Off Infection
- Avoid Respiratory Infections: A 2019 research study found that moderate-intensity exercise improves immunity and prevents respiratory viral infections. Those who exercise at least three times a week may potentially reduce the risk of acquiring upper respiratory diseases such as the coronavirus.
- Flushing of Virus or Bacteria: Regular, not strenuous physical activity may help flush bacteria and viruses in the airways and lungs. Study shows that it helps in reducing the possibility of acquiring flu and other illnesses like coronavirus.
- Strengthens WBC: The WBC (White Blood Cells) are the body’s immune system cells, which helps fight off disease. Physical activity helps with the antibodies and WBC to circulate rapidly in the body to detect and fight off infections at an earlier stage.
- Slows the Release of Stress Hormones: Regular Exercise helps slow down the release of stress hormones in the body. If the body is in a state of stress, the hormones are released faster, and the body gets sick faster. While if the release of stress hormones is delayed, the WBC will act quickly and protect the body against any illness.
- Lack of Physical Activity Puts You at Risk in Developing an Illness: The lack of physical activity places a person at risk of any type of disease and infection. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the common risk factors in developing infections.
What Types of Exercise Can Help with Fighting Infections?
It is important to remember that regular exercise can help fight off infections, not strenuous exercise necessarily. Although some people like athletes are used to strenuous exercise, regular exercise is good enough to fight off infections.
Regular exercise qualifies as:
- Your maximum heart rate for the physical activity is at 70% or below.
- 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or
- 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise or
- 30 minutes of daily light intensity exercise
- Combination of the three activities per week
Regular exercise is good enough, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do strenuous exercise. As long as you gradually improve yourself, this is okay. Just make sure you don’t allow it to lead to harmful injury, and remember to progress slowly.
With this ongoing pandemic, some people find it hard to engage themselves in physical activity at home. Some gyms are closed, as well as sports centers and pools. But you can always get creative and think of other ways to sweat it out. Here is some moderate exercise you can do to fight off infections:
- You can try yoga for 30 minutes to 1 hour at least three to five times a week. You can join online webinars, listen to podcasts, or follow YouTube videos for ideas.
- A combination of these exercises at home: Alternating leg lunges, chair squats, sit-ups, and push-ups.
- Full-body exercises like jumping jacks, jumping rope, burpees, strengthening, and stretching exercises.
- Walking up and down the stairs.
- Swimming, jogging, biking, walking around the block, gardening, household chores, or sports.
- Follow exercise videos or find an exercise buddy.
Other Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Other than engaging in moderate exercise, there are other ways to boost your immune system. At the moment, there is no vaccine or known cure for COVID-19, so prevention is the only key to your well-being. Boosting your immunity is not just to fight against COVID-19 but for all infections and diseases as well. Here are other ways to boost your immune system:
Your physician would most likely tell you to get yourself, and your family vaccinated to boost your immunity. Annual flu shots work by stimulating your immune system by creating antibodies. According to the American Lung Association, the flu vaccine can prevent seasonal influenza and pneumonia.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Another way to boost your immune system is to eat a balanced diet, be mindful of healthy meals, and eat nutrient-rich foods. Of course, this includes more fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and antioxidants included in your diet. A balanced diet will also suggest reducing sugar intake and avoiding processed foods, fast foods, and too much fat intake.
As mentioned earlier, stress hormones increase your risk of developing a disease. This includes exposing yourself to stress factors. Once the body is under stress, cortisol production increases and high cortisol levels on your body do no good (e.g., hypertension, severe fatigue, slowed healing for diseases).
Short-term stress is tolerable, but chronic stress will weaken your immune system. This will make you more susceptible to illnesses and viruses. To avoid stress, you can engage in relaxing and enjoyable activities like gardening, reading, and even exercising.
Get Enough Sleep
One of the best ways to fight infection is to get enough sleep. This means eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a day to improve brain function and strengthen the immune system.
When you’re sleeping, your immune system releases a protein called cytokine. This protein combats infection, inflammation, or when the body is under stress. If your body lacks cytokine due to sleep deprivation, infection-fighting antibodies are not present in your body, and you may get sick easily.
We all heard this a hundred times: taking vitamins is the best way to fight off infections and strengthen your immune system. Take Vitamin C with zinc, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E every day. Of course, don’t forget to ask your healthcare provider for the recommended daily intake.
Prevention is always better than having to deal with the results of illness after the fact; that is true with coronavirus and any other kind of disease or illness. Prevention is living a generally healthy lifestyle to fight off infection and strengthen your immune system. Make this your everyday mantra, even with your family.