How Exercise Can Save Your Life

As we continue to face off against COVID-19, let’s focus on fortifying your body for battle by boosting your immune system. For the next three issues, we’ll explore how exercise, nutrition, and managing stress combine to fight sickness.

As you age, if you don’t exercise regularly (and eat right, and manage stress), your body’s immune system breaks down. That makes you more susceptible to infections, autoimmune diseases, metabolic diseases, osteoporosis, and neurologic disorders.

But get this: the natural aging process of your immune system can be “remodeled,” as medical researchers phrase it, through consistent exercise. It can be boosted enough to make a huge difference in fighting off disease!

Exercise and Immune Response

Studies show that regular exercise improves immune function. When you challenge your body through exercise, dramatic changes for the good take place. This is especially true with resistance training, or ‘lifting weights,’ because your body responds in an unrivaled way by producing immune-specific proteins that make you far more capable of fighting off disease.

Every time you work out hard enough to break a good sweat you are improving your current state of health. This is a factor that gets little attention but prepares you for battle in the event you are invaded by coronavirus or another attacker. As your body heats up it reacts as if you have a fever, and goes to work killing pathogens! Every time you work out you kill ‘em, kill ‘em, kill ‘em, putting yourself in peak condition in the event of trouble.

Exercising five days a week has been shown to reduce the risk of getting an upper respiratory infection by about 50 percent. And makes symptoms about 40 percent less severe. So regular exercise greatly cuts the odds of getting an infection in the first place, and helps you avoid having a tough time if you do get sick.

Imagine yourself in a worst-case scenario and let that sink in.

Consistency of exercise is critical, because only over time does your body adapt when challenged again and again. It’s known as a ‘summation effect,’ causing immune cells to reprogram as they ‘learn’ to generate additional viability to handle the demands of exercise. Exercise-induced vigor your immune system earns is tapped when challenged by sickness and disease.

How it Works

Regular exercise has been shown to… 

* Increase number and health of T cells, a huge deal in fighting viruses such as COVID-19. When you hear experts in the media these days, they talk about T cells and their importance.

* Improve and speed up circulation of all key immune cells. 

* Bring on an anti-inflammatory response and antioxidant state. (Research suggests this is enhanced as body fat percentage is reduced, but exercise-induced reduction of inflammation is documented regardless of BMI.)

* Enhance effectiveness of vaccinations (older adults, especially, show greater antibody production after “getting a shot” if they exercise regularly).

* Lower levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which naturally boosts the immune system.

We hope this gives you a lot to think about, as you decide whether exercise is important enough to make time for in your life.

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Jill Strand