What can you do right now to help your immune system and stay healthy?
There is no shortage of possibilities when it comes to staying healthy. Exercise, proper diet, adequate sleep, and meditation are a few things that can majorly impact someones health. During a time of isolation, these things can become more difficult, but remain necessary for proper balance of one's health. Here are a few helpful ways to remain diligent while at home.
I was curious about the relationship between exercise and the immune system and found this 2019 article. “The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system” (J Sport Health Sci. 2019 May; 8(3): 201–217.) The big take-away from the article was that moderate intensity exercise, walking 30-45 min (or something similar during which you can feel increased heart and/or respiratory effort but still be able to carry on a conversation), helps to boost our immune system, including to upper respiratory infections. It also noted increased immune response to acute exercise (moderate-to-vigorous intensity, less than 60 min). It reported high intensity training (close to fatigue) and/or competing actually lowers our immune system capacity.
So, do what you can to get a little exercise every day. Take a walk around your neighborhood with a friend (but stay 6 ft away from each other and try to avoid cross-winds, or better, arrange times with your neighbors for each household to walk to avoid cross-contamination with other households) or a piece of exercise equipment (exercise bike, etc.). Not only will you be using your muscles but you will also help to boost your immune system.
If you're looking for ideas you can give us a call and talk to your therapist or do a quick search on youtube.com for at home workouts. There is a lot out there.
With so many diet trends out there, it is very challenging to pick what's right for you and your loved ones. Rather than going through a complete overhaul of how to eat perfectly, I wanted a view into some necessary micro-nutrients to help keep the immune system functioning properly.
Vitamin D: According to recent studies, Vitamin D has been linked with reduced flu risk, increased bone, teeth, and arterial health, and cardiovascular function.
Here are some foods rich in Vitamin D:
- fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna
- egg yolks
- beef liver
Beta-Carotene: This powerful anti-oxidant is found mostly in vegetables and linked with reducing inflammation, and increasing disease-fighting cells in the body.
- Leafy Greens
- Sweet Potatoes
Zinc: Another powerhouse for the immune system, Zinc helps boost white blood cell count. White blood cells are most notable for fighting against invaders to the body.
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
Vitamins C and E: Free radicals (Oxygen atoms that have split with unpaired electrons, searching for something to pair with) can harm the body and are associated with cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and many others. These vitamins are associated with relieving the body of these free radicals.
- Red Peppers
- Nuts & Seeds
Meditation and Sleep:
Inadequate sleep has been linked to suppressed immune function. Our body goes into a state of "repair" during our sleep cycle and interruptions to this cycle can lower immune responses. The recommendation is 5 hours uninterrupted in order to let the body go through it's minimal recharge/refresh time.
Meditation, in a recent article, is linked with many health benefits. Meditating for 10-20 minutes a day can produce some amazing results for the human body, such as:
- Decrease blood pressure: Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, Volume 18, Issue 3, Pages 137–143, ISSN (Online) 1868-1891, ISSN (Print) 1868-1883, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hmbci-2013-0056.
- Pain Control: Zeidan F, Martucci KT, Kraft RA, Gordon NS, McHaffie JG, Coghill RC. Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. J Neurosci. 2011;31(14):5540–5548. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5791-10.2011
- Improve Sleep:
Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2015 Nov;21(6):547-52. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000207.
The value of mindfulness meditation in the treatment of insomnia.
Martires J(1), Zeidler M.
- Reduce Stress: Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357–368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018
Here are other resources we pulled from. Take a look at some fun home exercises, meditation techniques, and other events to keep your immune system active and happy!
Schwalfenberg, G.K. (2011), A review of the critical role of vitamin D in the functioning of the immune system and the clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 55: 96-108. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201000174
Written by: Kasey Dunn, Jeanine Seawald PTA, Grant Glass PT