By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
Given that the COVID 19 has visited our country, directives from the health officials are to maintain social isolation. If you are sick, stay home and don’t spread the germs to others. Sick contact contributes to community spread. Now that we are advised to stay indoors, many of us have to give up our gym routine or outdoor sports. This prompted me to explore the topic of exercise and immunity. How valuable is exercise to boost up our immune system? We heard that “exercise is medicine”. Should we maintain our exercise routine especially during this time when we need our immune system to work overtime (if there is such a thing as working overtime) I found this simple explanation from Medline Plus and would abstract the key points for you.
Exercise and immunity
Battling another cough or cold? Feeling tired all the time? You may feel better if you take a daily walk or follow a simple exercise routine a few times a week.
Exercise helps decrease your chances of developing heart disease. It also keeps your bones healthy and strong.
We do not know exactly if or how exercise increases your immunity to certain illnesses. There are several theories. However, none of these theories have been proven. Some of these theories are:
- Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.
- Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before. However, no one knows whether these changes help prevent infections.
- The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)
- Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness.
Studies have shown that people who follow a moderately energetic lifestyle, benefit most from starting (and sticking to) an exercise program. A moderate program can consist of taking 30 minute walks.
Exercise makes you feel healthier and more energetic. It can help you feel better about yourself. So go ahead, take that aerobics exercise (at home now) or go for that walk. You will feel better and healthier for it.
There is no strong evidence to prove that taking immune supplements along with exercising lowers the chance of illness or infection.
Since we are told to stay indoor during this viral season, we can definitely maintain our exercise routine; yoga, Zumba and any arm or leg raising exercises would be a good substitutes for golfing, swimming and basketball playing.
Your homework assignment from the Care Ministry this week: find an exercise that you are passionate about.
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