Shake your booty to optimize your immune system! Being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your body. Exercise not only helps your body’s bones, muscles, heart, and lungs, but is also great for your immune system, it turns out!
Any type of physical activity is good for you, and a gym is not even necessary to get your exercise! Walking, hiking, biking, dancing, yoga or swimming are all great for your immune system.
However, it is hard enough dealing with a chronic illness that causes you pain on a regular basis, let alone trying to beat the fatigue AND exercise. But it is still really important that you keep moving your body for your physical and emotional help.
Movement can help boost your energy, help you get better sleep, reduce stress and might even lessen some of your pain, depending on where it stems from. Before we get into some tips to get you moving in spite of the pain, let’s dive into HOW exercise helps regulate the immune system.
How Does Exercise Help Regulate the Immune System
But how does physical activity optimize the defense mechanisms in your body? A comprehensive review of the available scientific data published in 2019 answers this. Moderate-to-vigorous regular exercise sessions are beneficial to immune function according to this article.
The bottom line is that your immune system benefits with less than 60 minutes of exercise on most days.
One study shows it takes as little as 20-30 minutes of regular exercise to benefit your immune system. You'll see the best benefits when you work out on a consistent basis. Click To Tweet
One study shows it takes as little as 20-30 minutes of regular exercise to benefit your immune system. You’ll see the best benefits when you work out on a consistent basis.
Exercise and White Blood Cells
With exercise, your white blood cells circulate faster throughout your entire body. This distributes the immune-fighting cells throughout all your body tissues. Along with these white cell disease-fighters, immunoglobulin circulation increases.
Immunoglobulins are proteins that help tag and identify disease organisms in your body. The white cells then come along and destroy this tagged complex and remove it from your body.
Exercise and Gut Health
Exercise helps the microbiome in your gastrointestinal tract, too. Regular exercise helps increase the biodiversity in your gut. Data shows the more biodiversity in the GI tract, the better it is for your immune system.
Beneficial strains of bacteria ferment indigestible food into components used by your body. These components help your immune system inside the gut itself as a first defense. They also help the immune system systemically throughout the body. Add this benefit to the reasons to don your sneakers daily.
Tips for Exercising with Chronic Pain
Take Advantage of Your Good Days
You might not be able to exercise every day, but you can take advantage of the days with no flare-ups and when you have a little more energy than normal. This often becomes a habit for people with chronic illness, as they know when they feel good, they should be taking full advantage of it.
So, if you have a day where you woke up with far less pain than normal and a bit more energy, go for a morning walk or do some yoga. You fit it in early in the day, so even if you’re tired later, you know you already did your exercise.
Start Slow and Don’t Keep Up with Others
There is no reason you have to go at someone else’s pace or intensity just to get in a good workout. Unless you have specific fitness goals, feel free to go at whatever pace you feel comfortable with. Choose workout partners that are at your current speed or pace, or at least who don’t mind slowing down a little bit.
Combine Exercise with Other Activities
An easy way to fit exercise into your routine is to combine it with other activities. For example, if your doctor wants you to try to get outside more, you can go on short walks every day to get outside in nature, and also get in a little bit of exercise at the same time. This is great even on days when you don’t have a lot of energy or your pain is a little worse, since you probably have to take your dog out anyway.
Exercise With a Professional
Depending on the chronic illness you have, it might be a good idea to hire a physical therapist or personal trainer to exercise with. Remember to get one who specializes in people with chronic pain so that they don’t try to push you in a way your body doesn’t react well to.
Be Mindful of Your Body
This means going at your own pace and only including exercises that don’t make your pain or other symptoms worse or unbearable. In order to live a healthy lifestyle, you need to understand your body. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of what effects your decisions have on your body.
One way to do this is by practicing self-awareness exercises like meditation, and journaling about your feelings. This can help you feel better about yourself and take care of your health for the future.
Include Proper Warmup
Be sure to stretch before performing any exercises to avoid harming your muscles or other parts of your body. This can promote stress and inflammation, only making your symptoms worse. Even simple exercises like walking and swimming can benefit from stretches or other warms ups to prevent injuries or strain on your muscles and bones.
Don’t Overextend Yourself
In other words, find an exercise routine that makes sense. But remember, you don’t need to go to the gym or do high-intensity exercises to gain benefits or see improvement. These exercises can be harmful to those who suffer from autoimmune diseases. The key is to get in proper movement to help reduce inflammation.
Try Complementary Therapies
This includes acupuncture and massage therapy. Massage therapy is a complementary therapy that has shown some promising evidence for its effectiveness in treating autoimmune diseases by alleviating pain.
For example, in a recent study, researchers compared the effects of massage therapy to relaxation strategies on pain intensity and well-being in people with fibromyalgia. They found that participants who received massage therapy reported sixty-two percent less pain over nine weeks than those who completed a control intervention without receiving massage therapy.
Incorporate Low Impact Exercise
Low-impact exercises can benefit people with autoimmune diseases by strengthening the body, improving flexibility, and taking pressure off joints and muscles. They can also help to reduce inflammation and relieve chronic pain. Examples of low-impact exercises include walking, swimming, and cycling.
Exercising in Public
There’s an important consideration to keep yourself healthy IF you get your exercise in a public gym. Not everyone will clean off the exercise equipment after they handle it.
So, you need to be aware to clean everything BEFORE you handle it. This includes free weights, handles on weight machines, mats, and anything you touch. Also, keep a towel to wipe the sweat away from your face—don’t use your hands!
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