Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v06n23)
Gettin' Ripped in Ripple - by Laura Minor
posted: Nov. 13, 2009
Yet Another Reason to GET MOVING!
Ah, the flu season. It happens every year, and obviously this year has been particularly challenging with the H1N1 virus that seems to be running rampant around the world. It is quite scary to see the number of people that have been affected by this dangerous and potentially fatal sickness.
On the flip side, over the past several years I have noticed that I haven't been sick in ages. Sure I have the occasional headache or indigestion, and my allergies can be a pain in the spring and fall. I even experience that familiar "pre-sick" weakness and vulnerable feeling that makes me anxious about what the next day will bring. But, thankfully, it never actually becomes a full-fledged cold. I certainly used to get sick in my past, so I decided to do a little investigating on if there was a significant link between being active and immune function. Well, it turns out (no huge surprise) that there is a positive link between moderate exercise and a strong immune system.
Studies have found that moderate exercise boosts the production of macrophages, which are cells that attack bacteria. During exercise, immune cells circulate through the body more quickly and are able to kill more bacteria and viruses. After exercise ends, the immune system generally returns back to normal within a few hours, but regular and consistent physical activity appears to make this immune boost last longer. Regular exercise might contribute to ridding the lungs of the types of airborne bacteria that are linked to common upper respiratory tract infections. The increased production of urine and sweat, can aid in cleansing the body of certain carcinogens (cancer-causing cells). Also, an increase in body temperature, resulting from physical activity, can help to inhibit bacteria growth and allow the body to fight against infection.
Lastly, who can dispute the benefit of stress reduction to the immune system? Exercise reduces the secretion of stress-related hormones that are clearly related to causing the flu and the common cold.
So, it would appear that the more exercise one does, the better they can ward off sickness. However, there is a bell-shaped curve in regard to the relationship between exercise and optimal immune functioning. Numerous studies have shown that repeated high-intensity exercise can suppress immunity for up to 72 hours following a session. During this window of time, infectious agents might gain an advantage providing them with the right environment and opportunity to grow in the body. At exhaustive levels, the reduction of stress-related hormones is reversed, and added stress can easily lead to illness. It is important for avid exercisers to pay attention to his/her body and know the signs of overdoing it.
Of course, exercise is only one component to a strong immune system. The other prominent factors include good nutrition, adequate sleep and decreasing mental stressors. But, with a regular exercise program, you may find that those healthy lifestyle changes are easier to attain since you are already putting forth an effort. You will likely want to eat better, and your stress levels should diminish. Also several studies have shown that regular exercise contributes to regular and restful sleep patterns. This is what I have not only experienced myself but I have heard this from many of my clients as well. Now, put down this paper and get moving to not let the flu beat up on you!
Laura Minor owner and operator of So.Be.Fit. Personal Training and Fitness studio located at 54th and the Monon. She is passionate about teaching others how to "FIT" exercise and physical activity into their daily lives, and have fun while doing so! Visit her website at www.sobefitindy.com or e-mail laura@BroadRippleGazette.com