Finally, the end is in sight…or is it? Even as deaths from COVID-19 inch down in some areas, and vaccinations become more readily available, it’s still important to stay vigilant in supporting your immune system. This is especially true for older adults, who are more susceptible to severe infections. And one easy way to help your body is to engage in regular physical activity.
Now, before you roll your eyes and stop reading (I know, you’ve heard all about the benefits of exercise before), give me a few minutes to explain. After all, as Robert N. Butler, MD, former director of the National Institute on Aging, has stated, “If exercise could be packed in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”
Specific to fighting infections, physical activity causes a cascade of effects in your body, changes that significantly alter your immune system. Here is a list of just five of the many ways exercise can help lower the risk of respiratory infections.
1) Exercise enhances your immune system’s immunosurveillance system—its ability to monitor, detect, and destroy viruses. You get a head start in recognizing and tracking down the culprits.
2) A single bout of exercise causes a massive and almost instantaneous mobilization of immune cells. Billions of these cells begin to travel between your blood and tissues to do their work.
3) Physically active older adults have “younger” looking immune systems compared to those who are not as fit. Left on its own, our immune cells “age” and don’t respond as well to attacks.
4) Exercise enhances vaccination response, again especially for active older adults. You want those shots to do their job, correct?
5) Physical activity addresses a number of conditions that affect COVID outcomes: prevents or reduces overweight/obesity, decreases system inflammation, increases heart and lung conditioning, improves blood sugar and insulin metabolism, and mitigates stress.
Although the exact amount and type of exercise to support against COVID-19 haven’t been determined yet, what’s been shown to exert positive immune outcomes in many studies include:
- 150 – 300 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous cardio per week
- along with two sessions of muscle strengthening
To quote the authors of a paper regarding physical activity as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19, “Faced with the possibility of new pandemics by previously unknown microorganisms, without totally effective prevention measures, vaccines or specific treatments of proven efficacy, the host organism’s capacity against infections becomes the most important line of defense, thus emphasizing the importance of investing in lifestyle habits that promote health and well-being, such as the practice of physical activity.”
So the only question that remains—Why wouldn’t you add exercise to your wellness tool belt?
For additional healthy lifestyle ideas, reach out to me!