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Exercise Your Way to a Healthy Immune System

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The immune system is a complex beast. Comprised of various cells, tissues, and organs, your immune system defends your body from germs and viruses and protects against infection. With the season in full swing, you may be thinking about how to keep your immune system healthy and avoid getting sick.

Like a well-balanced diet and getting enough sleep, exercise can greatly contribute to overall good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. Here are five easy exercises you can do right now to boost your immune system!

Get into downward dog

Yoga is one of the most effective low impact exercises you can do to keep your body and mind in tip-top shape. The practice of yoga, which involves breathing and stretching, can do wonders to lower your stress levels, which can weaken your immune system and lead to inflammation. Through various breathing and meditation techniques, yoga also conditions the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulates the lymphatic system, and brings oxygenated blood to different parts of the body. So, go ahead and get into downward dog and say ‘ommm’.

Go for a (cold) swim

Whether it’s a dip in the Atlantic or Lake Michigan, a cold-water swim can do the body a lot of good. In one study conducted in the Czech Republic, scientists immersed several subjects in cold water for one hour, three times a week. They found that this increased their white blood cell count because the body is forced to react to changing conditions. Over a period, your body’s defenses become stronger. Coldwater swimming also releases endorphins, helps with circulation and can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Practice the ancient art of tai chi

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that combines yin and yang into one well-balanced exercise. According to a 2007 UCLA study, frequent tai chi practice in 112 test subjects led to a 38% increase in T blood cells, a type of white blood cell that fights off infection. Researchers concluded that tai chi enhances T cell activity by managing the nervous system's "fight or flight" response, which can, in certain cases, interfere with the immune system.

Cycle your way to health

The benefits of two wheels cannot be underestimated. Biking has been proven to lower stress, increase stamina and strength and exercise many different muscles. More and more research is showing that cycling can help the immune system, too. A recent study published in the Aging Cell journal found that 125 cyclists, aged 55 to 79, who cycled regularly were generating the same T blood cells as those of young adults in their 20s.

Walk, jog, or stroll

What could be easier than taking a stroll to boost your immunity? According to Harvard Health, a study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. If they ended up getting sick, it was for a shorter duration and their symptoms were milder. Regular walks for at least 30 minutes have also been shown to increase the circulation of natural killer cells and white blood cells.

How do you keep your immune system healthy? Let us know in the comments!

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