The Benefits of Exercise on Immune Function

Lately it seems everyone is focused on the immune system and how to support it. I see lots of “experts” recommending all manner of nutrients, herbs, foods and supplements. Which is helpful, but there is something you can do which benefits us on many levels and doesn’t have to cost a cent! And that’s exercise.

The immune system is an amazing network of organs, chemical messengers and cells that seek out, identify and destroy invaders such as viruses, various bacteria and other problematic microbes. Even at rest, immune cells are constantly on patrol for potential invading pathogens.

Despite our belief that we need to avoid various infections at all costs, the immune system needs to be activated from time to time to ensure optimal function. It’s like having a high performance vehicle that you never take out of the garage; it’s not going to run well if you don’t ever use it!

 Our precious immune components:

Immune function requires us to activate our spleen, which is a giant lymph node that sits between the stomach and diaphragm. It filters the blood, and moves dead cells and microbes to the lymph glands for processing and elimination. Our bone marrow produces lymphocytes known as T cells and B cells. Both have specific roles that keep specific invaders at bay.

Our lymphatic nodules are located all over the body and are responsible for making memory B cells, which have a memory of exposure to previous antigens. T cells are also produced in the nodules, which travel to various parts of the body via the lymph vessels when an antigen is present. An antigen is any substance that the immune system recognises as foreign or toxic, triggering the production of antibodies to control inflammation or infection.

The lymphatic vessels transport the lymph around the body. Unlike the circulatory system which has the heart to pump the blood around, the lymphatic vessels rely purely on muscle motion to keep them functioning efficiently.

 Why Exercise: the benefits:

·        Regular physical activity improves immune surveillance for foreign cells/bacteria

·        Helps to activate the release of the body’s immune cells

·        Circulates the immune cells efficiently through the body to reach all tissues and organs.

·        Helps to combat infectious diseases, but best of all

·        Works at a preventative level to reduce the risk of respiratory infection, including Covid19.

 Suggestions to get you moving:

·        Put on some upbeat music and dance around the kitchen for 15 minutes. You’ll boost your mood as well as your heart rate!

·        Incidental exercise: taking the stairs, parking the car a bit further from the shops or work place, using a push bike for short errands nearby.

·        Put away the vacuum robot and sweep or vacuum by hand. You can really get a sweat up, especially if you have some music playing too!

·        Use a skipping rope for 10 minutes. This will really get your heart rate elevated for huge benefits!

·        Start using the Couch to 5km app. This is a wonderful method to slowly build up your fitness and endurance.

·        Low impact exercise such as Pilates or Yoga can keep your lymphatic vessels healthy and keep that lymph flowing freely.