Movement and your immunity

08/04/2021

Movement and your Immunity 

 

We all know it’s good to move more and this last year we have had the time to walk, cycle and do more physical activities. But what does it do for your immunity and should we keep exercise up? Why are doctors asking us to do more activity, now named ‘social prescribing’?

How we live, move and breathe influences how well our whole body and our mind work. We know our muscles & bones get stronger, we are able to breathe deeper and we generally feel better. Signs of a weakened immunity can include an increased stress response, regular colds, tummy problems, wounds slow to heal, frequent infections and feeling tired all the time. 

An increase in stress (physical and emotional) means levels of hormones like cortisol and adrenalin change and we go into the ‘flight or fight’ mode. This is the body mechanism that prepares us to deal with a threat. Ongoing stress can cause longer term negative changes to the body. This can include anxiety, depression and lethargy.

And who wants to feel like this? 

Healthcare professionals are asking us to do more physical activity as research has showed that moderate level exercise benefits the cardio-vascular system, lowers blood pressure, helps control weight, reduces stress hormones and improves bone health creating an overall protection against diseases.

And who doesn’t want to feel like this?

Moderate exercise helps to increase your body’s anti-inflammatory response, strengthening your health and slowing the ageing process. Over your lifetime, regular exercise induced improvement to the white blood cells can improve your immune surveillance so the body is quicker to notice and react to infections and disease.  The body also shows improved glucose and lipid (fat) metabolism helping with weight management. 

What is moderate may differ from one person to another, the aim is to have shorter sessions where you are able to hold a brief conversation whilst moving for 30 minutes 3-4 x a week. Your heart rate must be elevated for the duration and you should feel a little out of breath whilst talking. 

A note of caution for those who love extreme sports, it can have a temporary weakening effect on the immune system as it will need time to heal after sessions. The extreme intensity leaves the upper respiratory tract open to infection for up to 72 hours. This means a planned regime including rest and healing is important when taking on high intensity training.

 

We are learning more about the gut microbiome and its role in the human immune system. This is the world of bacteria in your small and large intestines that helps digestion and make products the body needs.  A healthy population of bacteria fed by a good diet of glorious colourful food daily benefits the brain function too.

Good news all round!

Current research into the benefits of exercise is looking to link exercise and psychology, physiology and cognitive neuropsychology. This will hopefully show what levels and type of exercise helps the brain to WANT exercise and KEEP DOING IT!

Further information at;

NHS Website for exercise

How Much Exercise for health?

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