Photo by dusan jovic on Unsplash

It’s been a frightening couple of years with the COVID19 pandemic in full force mercilessly claiming victims around the world. Thankfully, vaccines have been a tremendous help in stopping the spread of COVID19 and protecting the vulnerable. We’ve come a long way in treating the respiratory disease that has taken the lives of millions worldwide. But a strong immune system will always be your first defense against COVID19 or any viral disease you may be exposed to. If you’re worried that your immune system is weak, diet and exercise will play a major role in helping you strengthen it. Both exercise and a healthy diet have tremendous positive effects on our health and wellbeing. A strong immune system is merely one of them.

What Is the Immune System?

Our immune system is what protects our body from harmful bacteria and infections. It’s made up of a network of proteins and cells that fight off harmful substances that enter our bloodstream and make us sick. When our immune system is strong, we have less chance of getting sick. Some people are born with weakened immune systems due to autoimmune disorders or other illnesses. Other factors that can weaken your immune system include poor diet, smoking, lack of sleep, or certain medications. A weakened immune system can lead to you getting sick more often as well as digestive issues, skin infections, slow wound healing, and fatigue.

How Does Exercise Strengthen the Immune System?

Exercise has many health benefits like, increased lifespan and reducing the risk of developing various diseases. Exercise will also strengthen the immune system. Regular moderate exercise has been associated with fewer sick days and reduced likelihood of respiratory infection. This may be because exercise helps to clear bacteria out of your airways that would otherwise make you sick. Exercise gives you a temporary elevation in body temperature which can be protective against different pathogens. And those who exercise regularly are likely to have reduced stress hormones, which can play a part in weakening our immune system. Exercise also helps to reduce inflammation, allowing the immune system to perform better.

Moderate exercise is any form of exercise that you can complete comfortably while carrying on a conversation. Examples of moderate exercise include walking, jogging, swimming, or even gardening. To strengthen the immune system, moderate exercise should be performed at least 3 times a week for thirty minutes to an hour. Make a point to make exercise part of your daily or weekly routine. Exercise will also help in reducing body fat which studies show may have an impact on your immunity. Obesity decreases immune system function, increasing your risk of getting sick. In fact, obesity is the leading comorbidity in COVID19 deaths in the US.

How Can Diet Strengthen the Immune System?

A healthy balanced diet plays a major role in all aspects of our health, including our immune system. Diets rich in essential vitamins, often found in fruits and vegetables, can help to strengthen our immune system by providing the necessary nutrition to keep us healthy. Below are some foods that may aid in maintaining strong immune function:

  • Garlic has been shown in one study to help prevent the common cold. Participants who were given an oral garlic supplement were half as likely to get sick as those who took the placebo.
  • Spinach contains essential vitamins and nutrients that help to maintain immune system function. Spinach is also a low-calorie food that is great for reducing weight.
  • Kefir is a probiotic drink that studies have shown is helpful in fighting bacteria, reducing inflammation, and increasing antioxidant activity. Regular consumption of kefir may help to strengthen the immune system over time.
  • Oranges contain tons of Vitamin C, which has been shown to help reduce duration of common cold symptoms. Eating oranges and other Vitamin C rich foods may help stave off cold symptoms from developing.
  • Turmeric is a popular cooking spice that contains the compound curcumin. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help to strengthen the immune system. It could be worth it to throw in a pinch of Turmeric into your recipe next time you cook.

Other Ways To Strengthen the Immune System

The best way to strengthen the immune system is to lead a healthier lifestyle overall that includes both regular exercise and a balanced diet. Bad habits like smoking or excessive drinking will increase your risk of various health problems that can weaken your immune system. You should focus on developing healthy habits that increase your health and wellbeing. Meditation can be good for improving sleep habits and reducing stress, both of which contribute to immune function. Maybe try incorporating meditation or other stress reducing activities in your life that will help you stay happy and healthy.

It’s also important to remember that good hygiene should continually be practiced to reduce your risk of contracting any foreign pathogen. Bacteria and viruses can live on the surfaces on anything we touch including door handles, countertops, and stair railings. Always wash your hands thoroughly after touching any public surface that others may have passed their germs onto. 

And finally, avoiding illness and strengthening the immune system may be as easy as getting a bit of sunshine. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that plays a key role in immune function. Our body absorbs Vitamin D from the sun and uses it to perform various functions. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to frequent infections and autoimmune disorders. Unfortunately, many of us are low in Vitamin D due to working inside all day or living in parts of the world with reduced sunlight year-round.

However, just 10 to 30 minutes a day of sunlight may be enough to receive the benefits of Vitamin D. Certain foods like oily fish, red meat, and fortified cereals also contain Vitamin D. While no one can say that Vitamin D or any of the above-mentioned suggestions can prevent illness for certain, it’s likely they will greatly improve your odds. We should always strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle for the benefit of a longer, happier life. Strengthening the immune system with exercise and diet is just one way to start.

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