It's cold and flu season again. Time to think about how to ward off any illness. Of course you should wash your hands frequently, eat nutritiously and get plenty of sleep to keep your body in germ fighting shape but does exercise also help keep you from getting sick?
Yes! There is a considerable amount of research showing that regular (at least a few times a week) moderate exercise enhances the immune system. Exercise has been shown to increase the production of macrophages, which are a large type of white blood cell that attack the kinds of bacteria that can trigger upper respiratory diseases. Other studies show there are actually physiological changes in the immune system that happen when a person exercises. Cells that promote immunity circulate through the system more rapidly, and they're capable of killing both viruses and bacteria. Research also shows that people who work out regularly report half as many sick days because of colds or sore throats compared to people who didn't exercise.
However, studies also show that intense exercise (i.e. marathons, endurance races) can negatively affect the immune system. If you don't give your body the proper rest it needs between high intensity workouts you could be weakening your immune system.
Bottom line, moderate exercise at least three times a week has so many benefits even beyond keeping you from getting sick so make the time and do it!
I strive to live a healthy lifestyle. I want to feel as good as I can, for as long as I can. If there are diseases and health conditions that are preventable, I'm going to do all I can to keep them away. I have been looking into heart health lately and noticed the tips for keeping your heart healthy have many other benefits as well. Also, they are things that I have been doing for years now that make me feel better everyday.
The American Heart Association has simple recommendations for good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. I have compiled a few here but check out their site if you have a chance to read more. There is so much information out there on health it can be confusing, but I think the four tips below are the basics for living healthier.
1. Use up as many calories as you take in each day. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. If you are unsure how many calories you are taking in and/or burning, there are a variety of apps and websites that can track it for you. My Fitness Pal is one of my favorites.
2. Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, skinless chicken, fish, nuts and legumes. Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce/eliminate trans fat in your diet. Limit your intake of sodium to under 2.400 mg a day.
3. Eat less nutrient-poor food. Limit your intake of sugar and processed foods. Food is fuel for your body, how's it going to run with poor quality fuel?
4. Don't smoke and drink alcohol only in moderation.