As the initial shock of COVID-19 passes, many of us are thinking about our health and ways to protect ourselves and our families. “Immunity” is a word we often see in health articles, but what exactly does it mean? You can’t see it, but your immune system, a collection of cells, tissues, and organs, is a powerful force keeping you at your best. Think of your immune system as a group of watchful guards defending your body against foreign invaders or germs.
Fortunately, the body naturally does a pretty good job of fighting off the bad guys most of the time. Think nasty enemies such as bacteria and viruses. But research shows that extra support can help. A strong immune system increases your chances of not getting sick initially and recovering from a bug more quickly without as much downtime.
While this concept might seem simple, there’s a lot of misinformation about staying well. Googling “boosting your immune system” delivers a wealth of results, some grounded in scientific research and some not. There’s evidence that, all things being equal, a regular exercise program before contracting a virus may help some patients from developing additional complications. For example, pneumonia, which often follows respiratory infections, can pose a serious threat to some people.
However, you can influence your destiny by taking preventive measures. Think healthy eating, stress management, meditation, common-sense hygiene, and exercise to boost your immune system. While science can’t explain exactly how exercise can benefit one’s immunity, experts have a few ideas. They suggest exercise might help rid the lungs and airways of germs, thus reducing your chance of getting sick.
Scientists also theorize that physical activity can prompt the body to produce more white blood cells, which are the body’s first line of defense against disease. Another theory is that exercise can taper the release of stress hormones. There’s a correlation between elevated fight-or-flight hormones and illness.
It should be noted that exercise is not a silver bullet. And anyone who suspects they’re ill should consult with their healthcare provider for screening. However, as the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, exercise is just one tool in the toolbox of health and well-being, with an immune system boost being one of the perks.