- Physical activity may help by flushing bacteria out from the lungs (thus decreasing the chance of a cold, flu, or other airborne illness) and may flush out cancer-causing cells (carcinogens) by increasing output of wastes, such as urine and sweat.
- Exercise sends antibodies and white blood cells (the body's defense cells) through the body at a quicker rate. As these antibodies or white blood cells circulate more rapidly, they could detect illnesses earlier than they might normally. The increased rate of circulating blood may also trigger the release of hormones that "warn" immune cells of intruding bacteria or viruses.
- The temporary rise in body temperature may prevent bacterial growth, allowing the body to fight the infection more effectively. (This is similar to what happens when the body has a fever.)
- Exercise slows down the release of stress-related hormones. Stress increases the chance of illness.
- Bicycling with the children a few times a week
- Daily 20 - 30 minute walks
- Going to the gym every other day
- Playing golf regularly
Battling another cough or cold? Feeling tired all the time? Taking a daily walk or following a simple exercise routine a few times a week may help you feel better.
Exercise not only helps your immune system fight off simple bacterial and viral infections, it decreases your chances of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.
We don't know exactly how exercise increases your immunity to certain illnesses, but there are several theories.
While exercise is beneficial, be careful not to "overdo" it. People who already exercise regularly are cautioned not to develop too vigorous a workout program in the hopes of increasing the immunity benefits. Heavy, long-term exercise (such as marathon running and intense gym training) could actually decrease the amount of white blood cells circulating through the body and increase the presence of stress-related hormones.
Studies have shown that the people who benefit most from starting (and sticking to) an exercise program are those who go from a sedentary ("couch potato") lifestyle to a moderately energetic lifestyle. A moderate program can consist of:
Exercise can help us feel better about ourselves, just by making us feel more energetic and healthier. So go ahead, take that aerobics class or go for that walk -- and feel better and healthier for it.
There is not strong evidence that taking any immune supplements along with exercising lowers the chance of illness or infections.Which of the following is a benefit of regular exercise?The correct answer is all of the above. Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit. Exercise helps your body work better. It can also make you look better, feel better, and even live longer.How much daily exercise do children need?The correct answer is 60 minutes. Even children who prefer staying inside and playing video games can learn to be active during the day. They can ride their bike to school, play active computer games, or help out with chores around the house.Kids are more likely to exercise if their parents are active too.The correct answer is fact. When you are active, your child will be too. Take walks before dinner, play hoops, or throw a baseball. Encourage your child to join a sports team. Some kids prefer team sports like soccer, and others prefer sports like swimming or tennis. Let your child choose.Regular exercise is good for your bones.The correct answer is fact. Doing exercises that put weight on your bones will help keep them strong and lower your risk of bone loss and breaks as you get older. Walking and strength training are good options. If you are older, haven't been active, or have a health problem, talk with your doctor before starting to exercise.Exercise can help you fight infections by:The correct answer is making your immune system stronger. Exercise helps your immune system fight off infections from bacteria and viruses. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. Weight or strength training can build muscle and improve strength at any age.The correct answer is fact. Doing weight or strength training will build your muscles and make you stronger. Even older adults can gain strength from these exercises. Use weights, resistance bands, or machines at a gym. Start slow, and work up to two 30-minute sessions every week.This is an important part of an exercise program:The correct answer is warming up and cooling down and stretching. Warm up your muscles and joints with gentle, full-body movements for 5 to 10 minutes before exercising. This can help prevent injury. Cool down by walking slowly then stretching muscles to help prevent muscle strains after exercise.Some exercises can make you less likely to fall.The correct answer is fact. Exercises that improve balance make you stronger, more flexible, and increase how long you can be active. One simple example is to stand on one foot while waiting in line. Or sit down and stand up without using your hands. Tai Chi and yoga can also help you develop balance.Which of the following can help prevent sports injuries?The correct answer is all of the above. But if you do get hurt, stop playing. Never try to “work through” the pain because this can cause more damage. Minor aches and pains you can treat yourself at home. More serious injuries should be treated by a doctor right away.Some people just don’t have time to be physically active.The correct answer is fiction. Being more active takes effort, but it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Break 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions and work it into your schedule. Plan to exercise during the time of day you like best, before work, at lunch, or in the evening. Or, build it into your commute. Find what works best for you.
Ivker RS. Chronic sinusitis. In: Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 19.
Barrett B. Viral upper respiratory infection. In: Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 20.
Hewitt MJ. Writing an exercise prescription. In: Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 90.
Johnson R, Knopp W. Nonorthopaedic conditions. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 3.
Woods JA. Exercise, inflammation, and innate immunity. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2009;29(2):381-393.
- Review date:
- September 11, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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