Can Exercise Boost Your Immunity?

It’s cold season. I hear people sneezing on the train, people sniffling at the office and coughing as they are walking down the street. You can’t avoid it. According to John Hopkins Medicine, the average adult gets 2-4 upper respiratory infections per year. We are constantly being exposed to millions of germs on a daily basis. Our immune system, is just that a system, that works to combat the germs and fight against infections.

In the past decade there have a number of studies looking at the effects of physical activity on immune function. While exercise is known to be beneficial for helping control and prevent a number of age related ailments and disease, this is a relatively new subject to be researched. One’s overall immune function is mostly genetic but the average adult’s immune defense does varies from day to day based on lifestyle choices. Vitamins, supplements and basic dietary choices can help promote a healthy immune response. Sleep plays an important role and not surprisingly, the amount of stress in your daily life can also negatively effect your ability to fight off a cold.

So what about exercise? It is one of the lifestyle choice that appears to be helping immune function. This shouldn’t be too shocking as moderate exercise is also helpful with dealing with stress and anxiety. Just another reason to be getting in those daily physical activity minutes! But studies show that too much can start having an opposite effect. Intense exercise, labeled at more than hour and half of sustained physical activity (i.e. marathon runners, professional athletes) can weaken your ability to combat viruses. Many athletes are more susceptible to getting sick after a big competition where they were training for extended periods of time. So unless you are a professional, like for so many things in life, moderation is key.

Check out these links below that talk about how to boost your immunity this cold season!

NBCNews: 7 easy ways to boost your immunity

Harvard Health Publications: How to boost your immune system

Webmd: fitness and exercise: Boost your Immune System

Active.com: Answering your question about immunity

About.com: Exercise and Immunity

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Keeping Fit on Vacation

Vacations and traveling can be refreshing and energizing but they can also leave us feeling a bit heavier upon return home. My dad used to tell me, “there are no calories on Holidays” and like so many others I take advantage of times with friends and family or on vacation as times to splurge and not think about eating “right” and just enjoying a good meal and a dessert. And there is nothing wrong with that! The last thing I would recommend is to go on a trip and not experience the food! But vacationing is not an excuse to be less active either….

On most of my vacations I do a lot of walking without thinking about it. Walking is great, and can mean the difference of 1.3 more years of healthy life in terms of cardiovascular disease if you are walking just 30 minutes a day. (according to a 2005 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine)

Living in New York City, I can easily walk 30 minutes a day when I include my commute to work and running errands in my neighborhood. If you live in a more suburban community getting those minutes in might have to be a bit more proactive when you drive everywhere you need to go. But exploring new cities, it should be easy to get in that burst of activity each day- but that might not be enough if you are also eating slightly more- or more richly than normal.

Unless you are at an all amenities included hotel, chances are you are without a gym. Here is when knowing how to get a good work out without relying on machines is most beneficial. Pilates and Yoga are both great to utilize in these types of situations. And getting creative with squats, lounges, and planks can give you a full body workout with limited space and equipment.

I found this article on a ten minute plank work out by Tina Haupert on Health Magazine’s Website. I tried it over the weekend and my abs and arms were definitely sore the next day. It’s incredibly intense and not suitable for beginners to plank workouts but it is telling just how little you need to work up a sweat. A modified version of this workout would be to add in moments in downward dog and child’s pose to rest.

Extra time stretching can also be a great addition to vacation time workouts. Stretching can be very relaxing and much needed after long periods of time sitting (travelling). Long trips on a plane or a car can be terrible for circulation. Try to stand up for a minute every hour or so, and making sure you rotate your ankles, stretch the calves and legs and doing a few straight leg press ups onto your toes can increase blood flow and prevent cramps.