With the world consumed with the COVID situation, immune system strength is a hot topic. Everyone wants to know how they can boost their immune system to ward off viruses as well as cancer and other diseases. When looking at your immune system, it’s important to step back and take a look at the big picture and view your lifestyle as a whole.
It’s all too easy to get wrapped up into thinking one magical supplement or food will help you catapult your body into a master defense mechanism however in reality, there are multiple factors at work.
Things like sleep, stress, diet, exercise habits, lifestyle choices, and even your genetic make-up can all play a role. Today we’re here to talk about the exercise component of things.
What can you do workout-wise to ensure that your body is at its strongest?
Exercising does help make your immune system stronger, and on that point, there is a mountain of scientific evidence. That said, some people overtrain which can actually increase stress hormones and weaken the immune system response. Here are three elements to think about when balancing good training with overtraining, so you can ensure that your workouts lead to a healthier tomorrow.
Alternate Easy And Hard Days
If you’re highly motivated, it’s no problem to find yourself wanting to push, push, push on the daily. You hit the gym and want to make it worth your while, so you challenge your body to see what it can do.
For some of us, ‘easy’ days are a foreign concept. Sure you might take your required day off during the week on Sunday, but Monday through Saturday, it’s go-time.
While it’s great to be so motivated and such a hard worker, this does come at a price. Eventually, your body won’t be able to keep up and sooner or later, you will find that you grow tired. Your workouts that are supposed to be ‘hard’ won’t be as hard anymore and instead, what you’ll be left with is mediocre performance to ‘get the job done’.
Your body needs rest after each workout session to grow back stronger than it was before. Otherwise, you’re just tearing yourself down further and further.
And with it, your immune system. Your immune system and muscular system are very similar in this regard. Exercise will strengthen your immune system over time, provided sufficient rest is given between the workouts.
So have that easy day(s) built into your schedule. By having easy days, you can still hit the gym and satisfy those cravings to workout, but you aren’t pushing your body like you would on those harder, more intense focused days.
If you’re all about the lifting, another change you might make is giving yoga a try. The nice thing is yoga, if you’re doing a hatha/relaxation focused variation, can actually take place on your rest days.
Therefore it’s a great way to help stay active on these days while building your immune system up.
Research has shown that regular yoga participation can help strengthen the immune system, likely in part to the stress-relieving properties it provides. It helps to release the hormone cortisol in the body, which is the stress hormone associated with the breaking down of body tissues.
Even if this just means signing up for some online yoga classes and doing them in the comfort of your own living room on Sunday afternoon – it’s a great way to give your immune system a boost.
Rethink Frequent Low Rep Training
Finally, the last change you might make to your workouts to help give your immune system a boost is to rethink frequent very low rep training if you’re doing it. While going for that max PR set of 3 is fine once in a while, don’t make a habit of it. Unless you have very specific reasons for always training in a max strength rep range, it’s best to bump the reps up a bit.
The reason for this being that very low rep training is going to be most taxing on the central nervous system (CNS) and your CNS and immune system are closely linked.
By lightening up the weight a bit but doing higher reps, you’ll still be taxing your muscles and improving your fitness, but you won’t be putting yourself quite so deep into the hole in terms of central nervous system recovery.
Balance is key. Do some higher rep days with those lower rep days to be safe.
So there you have three relatively simple changes you can begin making to your exercise program right now to help you manage your immune system and prevent illness in the future. Are there any changes you could make?
Lim, Sung-Ah, and Kwang-Jo Cheong. “Regular yoga practice improves antioxidant status, immune function, and stress hormone releases in young healthy people: a randomized, double-blind, controlled pilot study.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 21.9 (2015): 530-538.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.