It’s no secret that exercise is good for you. It’s been well documented that regular physical activity can improve both your mental and all-around physical health. By choosing to exercise, you are making the conscious decision to reduce your risk of heart disease, improve energy levels and sleep health, strengthen muscles and bones, and maintain a healthy physique.
But, there’s another piece to health that is sometimes forgotten when discussing exercise. Staying active can actually boost your immune system, which helps your body fight off illnesses.
This is especially important as we move into fall and winter, since many illnesses, like COVID and the flu, see surges as we head indoors. This is a good reminder to develop your winter workout plan and make arrangements to try out some indoor or modified activities in order to prioritize your wellness throughout the season.
Fitness helps reduce risk of inflammation
Scientists have studied the effects of physical activity on health and have found that exercise is a “primary pillar of healthy living” and is “consistently shown to dramatically reduce the risk for developing systemic inflammation, excess body mass and non-communicable diseases known to compromise immune function.”
But what does that mean?
By exercising, we are lessening our risk to develop body-wide inflammation. Usually, when you are sick or have an injury, inflammation in a specific area — like your sinuses or swelling near a broken bone — is a sign that your body is working to fight off the infection and heal itself. But, when that inflammation continues to exist even when you are “healthy,” long-term inflammation can cause chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes. These conditions, and other autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, can make you more susceptible to illness.
Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, fights inflammation by helping to both reduce body fat and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Physical activity decreases stress levels in the body
Like we said earlier, exercise has known benefits for both mental health. This relates back to physical health.
When thinking about the body, it’s important to remember that each part is connected. The systems of the body are not silos all working independently of one another. Your mental health affects your physical health and immunity, and vice versa.
When we are stressed, anxious, and tired, our body has to work harder to achieve stasis. Long-term, chronic stress has especially bad consequences for our wellbeing.
If you're looking for a way to fight stress, working out is very beneficial. Not only does it make you feel good physically, but it can help enhance your immune system too.
Chronic stress raises catecholamine and suppressor T cells levels, both of which suppress the activity of the immune system. When this happens, our body is not able to fight off invading bacteria and viruses as well, which can lead to getting sick.
Exercise reduces the effects of stress on your body, often leading to positive changes. With physical activity comes the release of endorphins, a chemical in the brain that decreases feelings of pain and often makes fitness enthusiasts feel good. Ever heard of a runner’s high?
By prioritizing exercise, you are helping your mental health, which in turn has big rewards for your physical health. Reduce the amount of stress you are experiencing and see how it impacts your immunity!
Sleep better & help your body heal
Sleep is about more than just resting your mind to feel refreshed for the next day. It also is a necessary function of the body; when you sleep, your body works to heal and repair itself. That’s why when you are sick or are suffering from a serious injury, you are often more tired than normal. The body needs the extra sleep to focus on healing so you will be feeling better more quickly.
Exercising can help you sleep, which in turn boosts your immunity. When you exercise, you relieve stress and release endorphins, making it easier for you to fall asleep. Exercise also shortens sleep latency. Sleep latency is the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. Regular physical activity can help your body relax and thus you are able to fall asleep faster. Another benefit of exercise is increased sleep duration.
Each of these “boons” improves your body’s ability to heal. Just remember that having good sleep health means more than just exercising everyday and getting in the bed when it’s dark. You will want to develop a sleep routine and good sleep health habits in order to optimize your sleep, and thus, optimize your immunity.
Exercise raises your body temperature
Most of us have had a fever sometime in our life. Having a fever is our body’s way of heating up to kill off bacteria and heal from an infection.
Exercise can have a similar effect. When we are working out and getting our heart pumping, we create heat in the body. Often, it’s easy to tell because we might be sweaty or physically feel hot. Our body temperature will increase during exercise and usually stays elevated for a little bit following our fitness routine.
While you may not have a fever, this rise in body temperature can still have a significant impact on your immune system’s ability to fight off infection and a great boost to your immune system.
Working out stimulates the immune system
Just working out can stimulate the immune system. According to a 2019 study, exercise is important to stimulate the “ongoing exchange of distinct and highly active immune cell subtypes between circulation and tissues.” By just choosing to do regular physical activity, you are helping jumpstart your own immunity.
Knowing that we can have an impact on our own immunity is incredibly empowering, especially during seasons where it feels like illness runs rampant.
Even with this knowledge, though, we have to make sure that we are doing all we can to avoid sickness. Washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, vaccinations, and masking, if appropriate, can all further reduce our risk of illness. Knowing that there are many tools to keep yourself healthy this year should give you peace of mind.
But, it is nice to know that your fitness routine is having a sizable impact on your overall health.
Use ZOZOFIT to Track Your Fitness
If you're looking to get more out of your health and wellness tracking, using the ZOZOSUIT with the ZOZOFIT app can provide you with body measurements and body fat percentage calculations through our 3D body scanning technology. You can use these measurements to see how you’ve physically changed over time, and determine whether or not you are hitting your goals.