A Changing World
There is a lot of change happening in the world right now. The global outbreak of COVID-19 is at the forefront of all our minds. We are all trying to decide how to keep ourselves and our family as safe as possible. There are many regulations that have recently been put in place including the mandate to wear masks in public. We have seen that this horrible disease often attacks our most vulnerable populations, most notably the elderly. It has also been noted, there are other risk factors which can exacerbate these cases, which have everything to do with a person’s individual health. Obesity and diabetes have been noted as two major risk factors. Although there is nothing we can do to stay 100% safe short of complete isolation, exercise can have excellent benefits on our immune system. As a physical therapist, I have always thought of exercise as a “Fountain of Youth”. It also can be a huge boost for our immune system.
Risks and Benefits
We have known for a long time the benefits of regular exercise on cardiovascular health. In fact, we call running biking, and sustained activities by the name, “cardio.” A quick internet search will show many great benefits for moderate aerobic activity. Even with something as a simple as a walk you can boost your immune system. With each brisk walk or any other workout with moderate intensity, your natural antibodies are increased as well as anti-inflammatory factors which can help your body fight all germs and other invading bacteria.
You don’t have to go on an hour-long run in order to feel these benefits. In fact, exercising too hard for too long can actually increase stress hormones and reduce any benefit for your system. Research says that moderate exercise under 60 minutes is the best. What is moderate activity? Basically, anything that gets you breathing hard, but where you’re still able to talk to a friend (obviously from 6 feet away.)
Where to Start?
What can you do if you want this immune system increase if you are not already active? Do you have to worry about injury? The answer to that second question is unquestionably yes. Any sudden increase in your activity level can seriously increase your risk for soft tissue injury. And soft tissue injuries can make you get to know people like me way better than you want.
The best advice is just to start moving a little more than you already are. Go for a walk. Go for a short bike ride, wake up early and play a short round of golf. Have fun with it and get creative. There are several different workout routines of all different intensities which are readily available online or on YouTube. Several different individuals and companies are offering workouts on such web services like Zoom or even social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram. There are countless ways to learn to safely be a little more active.
You Are What You Eat
Lastly, don’t forget the importance of developing good nutritional habits as well. It is well documented that a key to good health is a healthy diet. Get plenty of vegetables and lean proteins. If you are like me, vegetables are difficult to eat. One thing that helped me was purchasing an air fryer. I have found many different recipes to air fry vegetables in order to make them more palatable. So remember, exercise and a healthy diet are great ways to give your immune system a much needed boost. Your body will thank you.
Written by Rod Walker PT