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Exercise & Your Immune System

Exercise is a key component to keeping our immune systems healthy. Many people only focus on food and supplements when they think of strengthening their immune health but having a regular exercise routine is just as vital. Let's dive into why that is.

Exercise has a number of positive effects on the immune system. Here are some of the key ways it helps:

  • Increased circulation of immune cells: During exercise, your heart rate and blood flow increase. This helps to circulate immune cells, such as white blood cells, throughout your body more quickly. This allows them to identify and destroy pathogens more efficiently.

  • Reduced inflammation: Exercise can help to reduce chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.

  • Improved sleep: Regular exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Sleep is essential for overall health, including immune function.

  • Reduced stress: Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Stress hormones can weaken the immune system, so reducing stress can help to improve immune function. It's important to note that while moderate exercise can boost the immune system, too much exercise can actually have the opposite effect. Overtraining can suppress the immune system and make you more susceptible to illness.

Exercise combats inflammation in the body through several mechanisms:

  • Modulating protein release: Muscles release a protein called interleukin-6 (IL-6) during exercise. This protein, though triggering some inflammation initially, has anti-inflammatory properties as well. IL-6 works by countering molecules that induce inflammation and reducing levels of TNF alpha, another protein that fuels inflammation.

  • Fat reduction: Exercise helps reduce fatty tissue, particularly visceral fat around organs. This fat tissue is known to release inflammatory proteins. By lowering overall fat content, exercise indirectly reduces inflammatory processes.

  • Improved cellular communication: Exercise is believed to improve communication between immune cells, leading to a more controlled and balanced inflammatory response. This can help prevent chronic, out-of-control inflammation.

  • Stress reduction: Exercise is a well-known stress reliever. Chronic stress can contribute to inflammation, so exercise-induced stress reduction helps dampen inflammatory responses.

While a single exercise session can offer some anti-inflammatory benefits, these effects become more pronounced with consistent, regular exercise. It's important to find an exercise routine you enjoy and can stick with for long-term health gains.

Tips to achieve the most immune-boosting benefits from exercise:

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

  • Include a variety of activities in your workout routine, such as cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises.

  • Listen to your body and take rest days when you need them.

  • If you're new to exercise, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. 

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