We assume You know how to protect yourself against the coronavirus by now—regular handwashing, social distancing, and maintaining a balanced diet to keep your body as healthy as possible. But another important aspect of supporting your overall health can also come in handy right now to boost your immune system: Which is Regular Exercise.
Of course, with schedules all over the place and gyms closed, sometimes taking up your sneakers for a run will feel like the last thing you want to do. But the simple act of moving your body more can provide a powerful tool for fighting infection.
To explain the connection between exercise and immunity, experts studied exercise’s effect on the immune system. Here’s how to make the most of your workouts for your overall health, particularly during a pandemic.
Can exercise boost your immune system?
Even with stay-at-home orders set up across the country, top officials like the CDC and WHO still encourage regular exercise—and for good reason. In addition to improving your mental health, a 2019 scientific review in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found that exercise can improve your immune response, lower illness risk, and reduce inflammation.
Study author, a professor in the department of biology at Appalachian State University and director of the university’s Human Performance Laboratory, tells Health that typically, people only have a small number of immune cells circulating around the body. Those cells hangs out in lymphoid tissues and organs like the spleen, where your body kills viruses, and other micro organisms that cause disease.
Exercise helps to recruit highly specialized immune cells—such as natural killer cells and T cells—find pathogens (like viruses) and wipe them out.
While you do get an immediate response from your immune system when you exercise, that will eventually go away—unless you keep working out consistently. In fact, another study from Nieman and his team—this one published in 2011 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine—found that those who do aerobic exercise five or more days of the week lowered the number of upper respiratory tract infections (like the common cold) over a 12-week period.
Another benefit of exercise is that it decreases inflammation in the body—which, in turn, can also improve immunity.
What’s the best type of exercise to boost your immunity?
Most studies, looked at aerobic activity—walking, running, or cycling. To gain the benefits, it’s best to push the pace a bit when walking. “For most people, we’re talking about a 15-minute mile.
The bottom line: Moderate exercise can boost your immunity right now—but don’t overdo it.
This pandemic is a golden opportunity to start a regular walking program—a time to nail down the habit of frequent physical activity. While other lifestyle habits like eating fruit, managing stress, and getting quality sleep can also help reduce risk of illness, the experts says exercise is potentially “the most powerful habit that people can adopt right now as they’re coping with this new and novel virus.”
If you’re new to exercise (and have your doc’s approval to start a fitness program), go out for even just 10 minutes, two to four times a day. Then work on gradually increasing that time. Or try a low-impact workout at home, if you’re in a crowded city and have fewer opportunities to get outdoors.
Even if you are exercising, don’t forget that your best defense against getting COVID-19 is limiting your risk of catching it by practicing social-distancing and frequently washing your hands. “Reducing your exposure to the virus is number-one, it rises above everything,”. “Social-distancing and good hygiene must always be paramount.. Best to emphasize enough on the importance of everyone being healthy and focusing on good immunity too.”