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Exercise and your immune system—The secret link to good health?

We’ve all been told by our mothers at some stage to ‘put a jacket on or you’ll catch a cold!’, but could this common mantra soon be replaced with ‘make sure you exercise or you’ll catch a cold!”? The theory that regular moderate exercise could actually bolster our immune systems is a hot topic in the medical world, with some scientific studies suggesting that it can, in fact, keep us healthier. Today we zone in on this exciting theory, and explore whether your workouts may truly be keeping the common cold at bay.


Exercise and your immune system—Understanding immunity

The immune system is a complex mix of cells, organs, proteins and tissues throughout your body. When bacteria or microorganisms enter your system, your body creates an immune response, which triggers a chain reaction in various locations.

Your body releases a flood of various types of white blood cells, as well as a surge of blood to the area which is responsible for the inflammation you may experience. Your blood vessels also change to allow your special defender white blood cells to reach the area of concern, where they fight the infection and clean up the debris.

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Exercise and your immune system—How does exercise come into play?

One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong and functioning correctly is by leading a healthy lifestyle. Diet, low levels of stress and adequate sleep are all vital players in maintaining a strong immune response. But how could regular exercise assist in keeping your body’s immune system strong?

There are a number of theories being examined which may support this claim:

  • Some scientists have theorised that the increased circulation exercise causes may encourage protective white blood cells to travel around the body at a more rapid rate, more effectively guarding us against disease and infection
  • Some have hypothesised that exercise may help flush bad bacteria out of our respiratory systems
  • The temperature rise we experience while exercising has been compared to a fever we produce when ill, the higher body temperature helping to rid our systems of illness
  • Exercise lowers stress levels and encourages positive mental health, with lowered amounts of the stress hormone linked to a stronger immune system
  • And finally, outdoor environments reduce our risk of picking up a cold thanks to fresh air and breezes which make it more difficult to ingest harmful bacteria

Although scientists are yet to have comprehensive test results on the topic, there’s no denying that the immune-boosting exercise theories are solid ones! So next time you’re thinking of missing a workout, remind yourself of the possible added benefits of working up a sweat!

Do you find that your health is generally better when you regularly exercise? We’d love to hear your personal stories!

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