Battling another cough or cold? Feeling tired all the time? Taking a daily walk or following a simple exercise routine a few times a week may help you feel better.
Exercise not only helps your immune system fight off simple bacterial and viral infections, it decreases your chances of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.
We don't know exactly how exercise increases your immunity to certain illnesses, but there are several theories.
While exercise is beneficial, be careful not to "overdo" it. People who already exercise regularly are cautioned not to develop too vigorous a workout program in the hopes of increasing the immunity benefits. Heavy, long-term exercise (such as marathon running and intense gym training) could actually decrease the amount of white blood cells circulating through the body and increase the presence of stress-related hormones.
Studies have shown that the people who benefit most from starting (and sticking to) an exercise program are those who go from a sedentary ("couch potato") lifestyle to a moderately energetic lifestyle. A moderate program can consist of:
Exercise can help us feel better about ourselves, just by making us feel more energetic and healthier. So go ahead, take that aerobics class or go for that walk -- and feel better and healthier for it.
There is not strong evidence that taking any immune supplements along with exercising lowers the chance of illness or infections.
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Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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