When we think about all the ways exercise positively impacts our health, it’s hard NOT to move! A well-designed exercise and nutrition strategy has many benefits for our immediate and longterm wellness. Being active in moderation can support our vital organs and nervous system, including how our bodies are able to beat stress and fight illness. Here are a few reasons why exercise boosts the immune system, based on some basic biology!
1. Improving Circulation.
Exercising takes blood and vital nutrients to new spaces in the body, where our blood cells can recognize pathogens and start making antibodies to fight illness. It also strengthens the heart muscle, so each beat (contraction) becomes more efficient. Working out in an aerobic state keeps our blood pressure and cholesterol in check, which just feeds back into improving our blood flow!
2. Facilitating Lymph Flow.
Many of the waste products from our cell metabolism are filtered through our lymph ducts to our veins and then make their way to the liver. This is how our body naturally "detoxes" after digestion and regular activities. Lymph fluid also carries new immune cells to "scout" for infection and disease and to start fighting it! When we stretch, jump, or otherwise move our arms, legs, and core, we help all these cells do their job.
3. Boosting Mood.
The endorphins that our brains release during exercise help give us that feel-good, "I can handle anything" attitude! The more we can take things in stride (literally or figuratively), the less stressed we feel- especially as we connect with other people in our community. Managing stress helps keep our hormones in balance, so our immune systems are ready to confront challenges.
4. Regulating Nerves.
Research shows that vagal nerve tone increases with exercise. This is the main pathway that manages our relaxation response and has been linked to improving our sense of calm and wellbeing. The stronger this mind-body connection, the more adaptable we are to stress, and the better we can rest, which takes us to our next point...
Getting enough deep (REM) sleep each night gives our body time to repair itself. This helps us recover from injury more quickly, stay mentally strong, and keep everything in balance. When we are in a habit of exercising early enough in the day that we have time to wind down again before bed, we can start to experience higher quality sleep.
When we learn something new, we prove to ourselves that we are stronger and more adaptable than we maybe thought before. We gain a sense of resilience and calm during times of stress, realizing we can figure things out and endure hard times! This ties back into how our minds (conscious thoughts and subconscious processes) affect our hormones and sense of wellbeing.
When we train our bodies in a smart way, we are enabling our immune system to do its job the way it was designed. We are connecting everything from our heart and lungs (circulatory and respiratory systems), our stomach and intestines (digestive system), our muscle and bones, to the brain, spinal cord, and nerves... Building this true mind-body connection is one of the most natural and powerful things we can do!