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The human body was made to be in motion, which is just one reason why today's (often sedentary) lifestyles are attributed to the increase of chronic illnesses among the general population.
The risks that go along with lack of movement include obesity, weakened muscles and lowered muscle mass, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality. While it may be hard to get enough exercise on a daily basis, it’s more important than ever to get moving as much as possible to help improve overall health and, importantly, boost immune function. Let's take a look at how exercise affects the immune system, and how you can boost yours with some fun springtime activities.
Does exercise boost immune function?
The body’s immune system is its first line of defence against illness. The system functions by determining a threat, such as a virus or bacteria, and attacking it with immune cells to eliminate it from the body. When the immune system isn’t working properly, it can make the body more susceptible to infection and can lead to chronic illness. Exercise is a great way to help boost immune function and encourage a healthy response when invaders do happen to get into the body.
Exercise can help increase immune function by improving lung function. It manages to flush out certain bacteria from the lungs and airways, which will in turn lessen the risk of catching a cold or flu. It has also been proposed that exercise has the ability to change both white blood cells and antibodies, in turn leading to a properly functioning response system.
Different types of exercise may affect the immune system in different ways. For example, cardio exercise such as running or bicycling increases heart rate and encourages faster circulation of protective cells throughout the body. Less strenuous exercise, such as yoga, helps to decrease cortisol levels in the body, improving immune function and stimulating the lymphatic system, which removes toxins from the body. Decreased cortisol can also increase circulation of oxygen to organs for healthy function.
What is Spring Fatigue Disorder?
Spring Fatigue Disorder (SFD) is a seasonal mood/body condition. The disorder occurs when the seasons change, and it can present itself in symptoms such as chronic fatigue, depression, lethargy and anxiety. It’s thought to be caused by several different factors, including less sleep because of more daylight, physiological repairs that occur in the body caused by nutrient deficiencies left by winter, and even stress caused by the pressure to ‘enjoy’ the better weather.
Because SFD is caused by a variety of factors, there are several steps you can take to help beat the spring blues, including increasing vitamin intake, getting enough sleep and reducing overall levels of stress. Some exercises to combat spring fatigue disorder include brisk walking, outdoor hikes to help increase levels of vitamin D in the body naturally through sunlight consumption, and indoor weight training.
Immune-boosting activities for spring
When the warm weather and sunshine finally arrives, getting outside is a great way to help boost the immune system. Along with getting more sunshine and vitamin D as mentioned above, getting outside generally requires more physical activity, which boosts the immune system. Going for walks through fields of wildflowers in bloom will not only give you the boost of exercise needed to improve immune function, it will also allow you to get some rays and decrease stress because of its meditative properties.
Other outdoor activities that can help increase immune function include biking to increase cardiovascular function, taking outdoor workout classes, walking along the beach/river, and hiking through wooded areas. While outdoors in wooded areas, though, it’s important to check for ticks. Dress appropriately and take the proper steps when returning home to ensure that you have not been bitten by a possibly Lyme disease-infected tick.
Spring exercises to boost immunity during quarantine
Although the aforementioned activities may sound like a good idea, a lot of areas are currently under lockdown or quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are in an area where walking through a public area is not allowed, there are other things that can be done to help increase exercise, avoid SFD and increase immunity.
Following online exercise or yoga classes will help keep you busy while you’re stuck at home and will also boost immunity without much effort. Other things that can help you be active while stuck at home including walking around your neighbourhood, doing a spring deep clean of your home, or participating in exercise activities through YouTube channels or other social media networks. To keep your mind busy, picking up a new hobby could also help to boost the immune system by keeping stress levels at bay during a difficult time. Things such as crafts, online book clubs or puzzles are all activities that require focus, thus lowering cortisol levels.