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Did you know exercising can boost your immunity? Here’s how

Updated on:9 July 2020, 15:36pm IST
Don’t underestimate the power of a good workout. Apart from keeping you fit, it can also do wonders for immune system.
Dr Disha Nayak
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Work it out to boost your immunity. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Immunity is necessary for survival. After all, we live in a biosphere comprising of viruses, bacteria, and various other pathogens ready to invade us, feed on us, and make us sick. Immunity is our defence—it is like a soldier protecting our borders. 

What kind of immunity does the human body have?
There are three types of immunity in humans called innate, adaptive, and passive:

  • Innate immunity is the first line of defence against pathogens, our first protective layer i.e. the skin which is the external barrier of our body. If a pathogen manages to surpass this layer it has to face adaptive or acquired immunity.
  • Adaptive immunity is what we develop through life by developing antigens against any pathogen or when we get vaccinated.
  • Passive immunity is what we get from some external source like a baby gets it from its mother after breastfeeding.

How can you maintain a good level of immunity?
Researchers are studying various effects of lifestyle, diet, and exercises on immunity. Leading a good lifestyle is our first step to boost immunity. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Eat right and healthy. Don’t forget to include fruits and vegetables in your diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Develop a proper sleeping pattern—follow your biological clock
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Avoid alcohol completely or take it in moderation
  • Keep a positive approach to life
  • Stay physically active and exercise
exercises to prevent muscle loss
Do exercises at home to avoid losing muscle mass. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

But how can exercise boost immunity?
Physical activity is an important pillar of healthy lifestyle which in turn provides a boost to your immunity. A moderate level of exercise has shown to improve the immunological response of the body by improving circulation and mobilising immune cells if done to recommended level.

“For all of us, young and old, regular physical activity remains an important strategy for staying healthy,” says Liz Joy, M.D., M.P.H., FACSM, the former president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). “Compared to being sedentary, moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with better immune function. Regular physical activity is also associated with lower levels of anxiety and perceived stress, which many of us are feeling. Fit in two, five, 10 or 20 minutes of activity, however and wherever you can. Every active minute counts!”

Exercises that can boost your immunity

Deep Breathing exercises
Like cardiovascular exercises improve your cardiac health, breathing exercises improve the health of your lungs. Regular breathing exercises help by calming the mind, improving oxygenation, and also training the diaphragm to carry out the respiration instead of the accessory muscles. 

It’s time to breathe free. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

You can start by doing diaphragmatic breathing:

1. Sit in a comfortable and relaxed position.
2. Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach.
3. Breathe in through your nose. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
4. Exhale slowly for about two seconds and your stomach is moving in inwards.
5. Repeat.

Rib-stretch breathing can also help:

1. Stand up directly and arch your lower back
2. Breathe out
3. Slowly inhale air until your lungs fill to capacity
4. Hold your breath for about 10-20 seconds
5. Breathe out slowly via your mouth. You can do this usually or with pursed lips.

Cardio-endurance activity and strengthening
Some powerful and easy exercises or activities can be incorporated into your day-to-day life to boost your immunity. Even the most workout phobic amongst us can level up with them. Just 20 minutes of a brisk stroll or a even dance workout at home with a YouTube tutorial can help.

Also, watch:

The key here is to enjoy whatever you are doing to get the best benefits out of it. Also keep yourself physically active specially now when most of us are operating from home, sitting at a desk and still getting tired. Follow the 20-20-20 rule—take your eyes away from the screen for 20 minutes; get up from your chair and perform a few exercises for the neck, shoulders, and legs for 20 counts; and do 20 seconds of deep breathing. 

Apart from all these you can practice strengthening using various household items like water bottle, back packs, water jars, can/packets of grains or any other food items etc. This will prevent muscles from losing their mass and strength because of long term deconditioning—while also helping to boost your immunity.

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Dr Disha Nayak Dr Disha Nayak

Dr Disha Nayak (M.PTH rehabilitation) is a physiotherapist, fitness enthusiast and a blogger. Having worked in the field of women’s health, geriatric rehabilitation, oncology, and physiotherapy rehabilitation, her idea of giving back to society is by writing on health and fitness.