The Importance of Exercise for Immunity
We all know that exercise is good for us, but did you know that it might be able to ward off the common cold? Moderate exercise is a great way to improve our overall health and mental wellness, and help improve our body’s natural defense system.
Research supports a link between moderate exercise and a healthy immune system, due to the temporary boost of increased circulation of the cells of the immune system that can kill bacteria and viruses. Over time, scientists have shown that consistent, moderate, and near-daily exercise can lead to significant benefits to our long-term immunity. One study found that a woman who walked for half an hour every day over the course of a year had half the amount of colds of someone who didn’t exercise. That translates to fewer days of sickness from colds by 25 to 50 percent. Additionally, regular exercise also has anti-inflammatory effects on the body, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, various cancers, and dementia.
Conversely, however, experts caution against exercising excessively in the long term — like marathon running — as that may increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, as well as putting a strain on the body. Moderation is key.
Exercise for people in recovery
For years, many of us have used drugs and alcohol to escape and feel good, albeit temporarily. We then had to cope with the ill effects of hangovers, increased sickness and the subsequent time off from school and work, as well as mental illness. I’d imagine that many of our immune systems were compromised.
The process of recovery can be painful as we experience emotions and stress with more intensity than before. So we need to find a way to relieve stress, regain our composure, and learn how to relax naturally. Exercise provides that and so much more. Exercise can:
- Improve sleep
- Alleviate depression
- Help flush bacteria out of our lungs and airways
- Be a means of processing and reducing stress. By decreasing stress hormones, we also reduce the chance of illness
- Improve our mood with the release of endorphins
- Help us to connect to our body
- Can help to process trauma
- Improve overall fitness and cardiovascular health
- Possibly be a great tool to stop smoking
- Lower blood pressure
- Help control body weight
- Increase flexibility and motility of joints
- Provide structure to our days
- Give us a sense of achievement, especially if we’re working toward specific strength-based goals, or training for a race
- Provide a means of building a social community, especially in sports and group activities
When we’re just starting out, exercising may feel overwhelming. But it’s relatively easy to begin incorporating movement into our daily lives around our normal activities. You don’t have to start working out five days a week right away. Just aim for 20 minutes of activity a day and increase slowly. Some ideas include:
- Get off the bus a few stops early, or parking your car a few blocks from school or work
- Start a Couch to 5k challenge
- Walk around the block at lunch time and taking the stairs
- Try a dance or yoga class
- Buy a bike and using it to commute to work
- Go to a roller-skating party
- Join a group exercise class or learn a new martial art
- Go for a hike on the weekend
- Take your dog for a longer walk than usual
- Challenge a friend to go to the gym with you twice a week
- Book some sessions with a personal trainer
- Try doing lunges and squats while cleaning your house
- Get up from your desk every hour and stretch
- Take a walk after your evening meal
- Go out dancing with sober friends
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you enjoy it. If you don’t like one activity, try another until you find something you like. Enjoying the exercise you do is the best way to make sure you keep at it!
The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our two core programs – Ammon Recovery Scholars Program and Ammon Empowerment Workshop Program. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here.