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How Exercise Helps To Support Your Immune System

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How Exercise Helps To Support Your Immune System

Keeping fit and carrying out regular exercise has obvious benefits for our physical health. It helps us to manage and maintain our weight, burn fat, build lean muscle mass and develop our body shape.

Exercise has exceptional benefits for our mental health too. We only need to think back to how we felt after our last workout to realise that. Yes, we might feel exhausted and we might ache, but that feel good factor after exercise is hard to ignore. This is all down to the release of happy hormones, or endorphins, caused by exercise. When we exercise, we release serotonin and dopamine, both endorphins that make us feel happy, alive and exhilarated.

But what about our immune health? Immunity is difficult to quantify, because for a start, it’s difficult to actually picture our immune system. Unlike the heart or the brain, our immune system isn’t just one organ or in one place. It’s a complex system of cells, molecules, tissues and organs that run throughout our entire body.

Unless we’re immunocompromised through serious illness or we’re taking certain medications, we do a great job of regulating our immunity. Our immune system is constantly working to defend us against disease and acting as our invisible army helping to keep us healthy. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps to keep the immune system strong. Naturally brightly coloured foods such as berries, peppers and carrots all contain antioxidants that help to fight free radicals that can dampen our immunity if they’re allowed to take hold.

However, it’s not just diet alone that helps to bolster our immune system and keep it strong, exercise does too. Regular exercise helps to fight inflammation, which is caused in part by free radicals. In a similar way to antioxidants neutralising damaging free radicals, exercise helps to protect us against chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is a normal part of the immune response when we become sick, for example with a cold or flu. The high temperature we experience is down to inflammation, and it’s a protective mechanism to helps us fight the infection. In essence, low level inflammation is a good thing.

But if inflammation becomes long term, or chronic, it can damage the cells of the immune system, causing it to weaken. Regularly exercising keeps inflammation at healthy levels and therefore protects the immune system against damage, keeping it healthy and strong.

Exercise also supports the immune system by increasing the flow of blood and oxygen around the body. When the heart beats faster, as is the case during exercise, it delivers blood and all its nutrients and oxygen further into the muscles. 

This also has the benefit of increasing the flow of the white blood cells that form an important part of the immune system. These cells are then available to find invading bacteria and viruses and destroy them, therefore helping to support strong immunity. 

So next time you’re exercising, don’t just think of the benefits to your physical and mental health, think of your immune soldiers also working hard to keep you healthy!

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