Cold and flu season is in full force, and while your best bet for fending off the flu is getting an annual flu shot, simply living a healthy lifestyle can also boost your immune health and prevent illness.
Researchers have been exploring the effects of diet, exercise and other factors on immune response, and they've found that regular exercise may be one of the best-kept secrets for keeping your immune system strong.
Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, reduces blood sugar, helps control body weight and contributes to overall good health, which includes a healthy immune system. Exercise has also been found to reduce inflammation, which can suppress the immune system.
Here are some other theories about why exercise may give your immune system a boost:
- Physical activity improves circulation, which helps flush toxins and bacteria out of the body, particularly the lungs and airways. This reduces the risk of developing a cold, flu or other airborne illness.
- Exercise improves circulation of white blood cells, which fight infections.
- When you exercise, your body temperature rises briefly. That rise in temperature may prevent bacteria from growing and help the body fight infection more effectively (similar to running a fever).
- Exercise is a natural stress reducer that slows the release of stress-related hormones, which may increase the chance of illness.
If you’re already sick, exercise won't help you get over your present illness, and too much physical activity may actually make you feel worse. So if you’re currently fighting sickness, give your body a few days to recover before returning to your regular exercise program.
But if you’re healthy, make time for exercise in your daily schedule (about 30 minutes a day) to help defend against seasonal and airborne illnesses like the cold and flu.
If you've been feeling under the weather this cold and flu season, consult a primary care provider with Goshen Physicians.