Immunity-Focused Workouts: Strength for Fall and Winter

Fall and winter are notorious seasons for illness, with the chilly weather bringing extra vulnerability to viruses and bacteria that often seem to creep up on us. Instead of being caught up with a cold, there's a way we can take a proactive approach to boosting our body's natural defense mechanisms with immunity-focused workouts. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best immunity-focused workouts for all levels and touch on the all-important relationship between diet and immunity.

Key takeaways:

What is an immunity-focused workout?

An immunity-focused workout is a type of exercise that aims to improve the body’s immune system in order to better protect against illness and infections. It not only adheres to our physical fitness goals, but also leaves a positive impact on our immune system as well.

Here are 4 key ways that consistent exercise can contribute to the effective functioning of our immune system:

  • Improved circulation. Exercise helps the blood and lymphatic fluid flow through the body more effectively, helping those all-important immune cells travel easily to potential areas of infection.
  • Stress reduction. Chronic stress has been shown to have a disastrous impact on the immune system, and regular exercise may be one way of lowering stress levels. Physical activity triggers endorphins and other hormones that make us feel good and regulate our stress responses.
  • Healthier sleep. High quality, deeply restful sleep is crucial for optimal immune system functioning, and regular exercise may help us get better sleep.
  • Immune cell activation. Our immune system works best when our T-cells and natural killer cells are healthy and responsive to pathogens that could make us unwell. Moderate-intensity exercise helps to activate these defense mechanisms, making us better equipped to fight infections.

Which exercises are best for the immune system?

When thinking about exercising to boost our immune system, we may assume that hardcore cardio with its sweat-inducing, circulatory-enhancing benefits might be the best kind of exercise to pursue, however, we’d be wrong. When it comes to the immune system, moderate-intensity exercise is the way to go.

Activities such as:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling

They all fall into the moderate-intensity exercise category and support the efficient transportation of immune cells throughout our bodies without exhausting us.

Brisk walking

Brisk walking is easily accessible for most people and is also a low-impact exercise, making it a good choice for those who want to improve circulation and cardiovascular health without putting too much stress on the body. Aim for 20–30 minutes of brisk walking every day to get the most benefits, and walk outdoors as often as possible for the added advantage of fresh air.

Swimming

Swimming is one of the best moderate-intensity forms of exercise to help boost our immune system during the winter. It’s ideal for people with sensitive joints or those recovering from injury, as this low-impact exercise provides buoyancy as well as resistance. If you have access to swimming facilities, aim to get in the pool for at least 20–30 minutes three times per week.

Cycling

Depending on your fitness levels and the health of your knee joints, a moderately paced bike ride for 30 minutes is a beneficial way to engage in moderate-intensity exercise. Cycling is terrific for the cardiovascular system, as it boosts circulation and the flow of immune cells in the blood and engages large muscle groups such as the quadriceps. Taking a gentle ride three or four times a week may help improve your immune system, protecting you from the inevitable onslaught of infections that arise during the fall and winter months.

Yoga and meditation

The effects of chronic stress on the immune system have been studied over the years, and the link between the two is now well established. Regular yoga practice of 45–90 minutes up to five times per week may help reduce stress levels and improve an immune system that has been negatively affected by unbalanced levels of the stress hormone cortisol. You could also try adding a ten-minute meditation at the end of your yoga session for some extra calm and tranquility.

These moderate-intensity exercise ideas are accessible for most people of all fitness levels, even if you are just starting out on your fitness journey. When combined with proper nutrition and sufficient recovery time, immunity-focused workouts may contribute to a strengthened immune system.

Diet and immunity

Our immune system is created by a complex network of cells and hormones that work tirelessly to protect us from infections and illness. It’s a system that is literally built from the inside out, which means that the foods we eat play a vital role in maintaining healthy defense mechanisms against potential pathogens like colds.

No matter how hard we work out, if we don’t prioritize fueling our bodies with healthy, nutritious foods, our immune systems will suffer. As you place more emphasis on immunity-focused workouts during winter, keep in mind the dietary tips below, which may help boost your body’s natural defenses.

  • Nutrient-dense food. Prioritize a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein to provide your body with the essential vitamins and minerals needed to boost your immune health.
  • Probiotics. A considerable portion of our immune system actually lives in our gut microbiome, so eating plenty of gut-healthy foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and probiotic yogurt is an excellent way to build the strength of our gut microbiome. If these foods are hard to find, consider making some of your own or purchasing a high-quality probiotic supplement.
  • Hydration. We need to be well hydrated to stay in optimal health, so make sure to drink the recommended 6–8 glasses of water per day. It can be harder to remember to hydrate properly during the fall and winter when we aren’t hot and sweaty. If you know you need to drink more, perhaps set reminders and think about drinking herbal teas or warm water with a squeeze of lemon rather than just cold water from the tap.

Final thoughts on immunity-focused workouts

Being unwell during the fall and winter is often expected, but we can prepare our bodies as much as possible. By shifting our workouts and diet to focus on building immunity as well as those all-important gains, we give ourselves the best chance at fighting against the cold and flu season.

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