Our immune system is an incredible and complicated system of biological functions that is on constant guard against environmental and internal stressors in order to keep our tissue cells healthy. There are two main portals into our bodies that make us susceptible to foreign invaders: the lungs and the stomach. So breathing and eating are the two life-sustaining activities that expose us to trouble; keeping our immune system healthy and strong is vital. As we age, many of our biological systems, including immunity, start to slow down and become less reliable. Therefore, adopting good lifestyle habits now will help to safeguard us for life.
Having a strong immune system can also mean we get less colds, coughs and viral infections during the year, and when we do fall victim to them, we fight them off quicker. It can also reduce our odds of developing more serious conditions like cancer and heart disease. The more we learn about the immune system and our lifestyle habits, the more we learn about their links with chronic diseases. There are three main lifestyle changes we can all make that will help shore up our immune system.
Getting the right amount of exercise
Regular physical activity is associated with a better immune system; although the exact reasons are unknown, there are several theories that suggest that moderate physical activity could:
- Help the expulsion of bacteria from the lungs and airways system, which reduces the odds of getting colds and flus.
- Allow for better circulation of immune fighters such as antibodies and white blood cells, giving them an advantage for tracking down disease-causing invaders more quickly.
- Cause core body temperature to rise, to prevent bacteria from thriving.
- Help relieve stress, which enhances “pro-inflammatory” hormones.
Whilst it is true that these effects of exercise are transient, over time, regular exercise appears to improve the function of the immune system. However, more strenuous activity such as very long distance running or “over-training” could do the opposite, as it puts more stress on the body – so moderate activity is better.