Included in this plethora of benefits? The immune booster opportunity to get in a good workout – something many of us start thinking about this time of year.
However, while the right type of exercise in right intensity and duration can boost your immune system, overdoing it, too hard or skipping hygiene essentials in a sprouted gym can be a recipe for catching something that makes you sick.
What is the best type of exercise to boost immunity?
Bias aside, yoga teacher Tatyana Souza, who holds a doctorate in immunology and also owns Coolidge Yoga in Boston says that one of the best exercises for boosting the immune system is yoga.
“Studies have shown that regular yoga practice can lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone in the blood, which in turn leads to less inflammation,” she says. “It may also reduce inflammatory markers in the blood.”
In many ways, yoga is great for supporting optimal immune function because it combines elements of movement, breathing, and meditation.
“Active yoga poses target the muscles, joints, circulatory system, and lymphatic system. The postures improve the movement of lymphatic fluid in the body, which improves the functioning of your immune system,” says Dr. Souza. “The postures also have a pro-digestion effect, which also helps your immune system. Active postures can also help create more space around your lungs and help bring blood and circulation to your chest, throat and nose to help your body’s mucous membranes (our first line of defense against invaders). strangers) to function better.
She adds that another quality of yoga that makes it particularly beneficial for supporting the immune system is its emphasis on breathing exercises, meditation, and restorative poses. These calming activities work to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) and calm the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”), which is normally active during times of stress.
“It leads to a reduction in stress and stress hormones, improves sleep quality, and gives the body permission to be in ‘rest and digest’ mode, when the body can better digest, process toxins, process information from our day and repair any damage at the molecular level,” shares Dr. Souza. “All of these processes help to make our body more resilient in the face of external attack.”
So is he only yoga that can improve the immune system?
No. Studies also show that aerobic exercise can reduce inflammation, support the gut microbiota that fights pathogens, improve immune cell activity and reduce the risk of infections. Any type of physical activity that allows you to reach at least 50% of your maximum heart rate for an extended period of time counts: you can run, walk, bike, row, hike, use the elliptical machine, climb stairs or doing Zumba. as long as your heart rate is elevated.
When working on backfires
Although exercise has the potential to support your immune system, Dr. Souza says overdoing it can tip the balance the other way.
“Any exercise that causes too much strain on the body and upregulates stress hormones for an extended period of time would have a negative impact on our immune system,” she says. “An example would be endurance training where you work the body for two to three hours a day of vigorous physical activity like running or biking, several times a week. Intense workouts like CrossFit and HIIT done daily can also lead to an imbalance in your stress hormones.
If you’re trying to avoid colds and flus, focus on moderation and ensure you get adequate recovery between strenuous exertions.
7 tweaks to make to your workout to stay healthy
People train for all kinds of reasons. But if you want to take advantage of a fitness routine to help you stay healthy, Dr. Souza recommends letting these tips guide your approach to exercise:
1. Mix up your workouts
Rather than going for a run every day, for example, be sure to follow a well-balanced exercise program that includes different types of movements. “Everything is fine in moderation,” says Dr. Souza. “If you exercise daily, mix it up with a few days of cardio, a few days of strength training, and a few days of restorative yoga and meditation.”
2. Skip marathon sessions
“Keep your workouts between 20 and 60 minutes. So there’s a short duration of stress followed by a rest,” says Dr. Souza.
3. Try yoga
Even if you love nothing more than lifting heavy weights, there is undeniably an immune benefit to adding yoga to your workout routine. Dr. Souza says, “A yoga practice like vinyasa flow mixed with yin yoga can be just the right balance of tension and relaxation to get your immune system, nervous system, and muscular system working at their best.”
Try this calming yoga flow for stress relief:
4: Work on a little meditation and breathing
To replicate some of the unique benefits of yoga, incorporate meditation and breathing exercises into your routine. It doesn’t have to be long, even a few minutes a day can do wonders for your immune system and mental health.
5. Remember to stretch
Once you’ve completed your final rep, give your body time to calm down rather than jumping straight to the next thing on your to-do list. “Always end with stretches, which can lengthen your muscles, detoxify lymph, and bring your nervous system into a state of downregulation,” says Dr. Souza. “Include moves such as twists, forward bends, side stretches, backbends, and inversions for the ultimate immune system boost.”
6. Practice good hygiene
If you work out in a public space like a gym or fitness studio, be sure to wash your hands after your workout. Avoid touching your face when using shared exercise equipment like weights or even a yoga mat.
7. Listen to your body
If you feel a cold, infection, or virus coming on, take a day off. Feed your immune system with vitamin Czinc, good nutrition and plenty of sleep.