Optimal immune resilience requires your immune system to have the ability to communicate throughout your whole body. The body has a variety of immune cells such as antigen presenting cells or macrophages, and their job is to continuously sample various compounds that come into the body. If they happen to sample a virus, bacterium, or other pathogen, they release messenger proteins to alert the immune system about the invader.
These messenger proteins signal the immune system to respond with antibodies, natural killer cells, and T-cells to tackle the infection. In order to have the best immune response, these messenger proteins have to circulate throughout the body as quickly as possible. This requires good circulation as well as exchange of fluids in the lymphatic system.
What is the best way to support that? Through physical movement. Increasing your heart rate through exercise enhances blood flow, and pumping and contracting your muscles helps move lymphatic fluids throughout the body.
Most people know lymph nodes as the areas that become tender and swollen when you’re sick. In fact, lymph nodes are areas throughout the body where immune cells basically hang out waiting to hear what’s going on with the rest of the immune system.
If you want to improve your immune resilience to viruses and other pathogens, it’s critical that these lymph nodes are constantly exposed to immune messenger proteins so they know what’s going on. We improve this through regular physical activity.
How much exercise, how long, and what type is best for immune resilience?
The next most common question is what is the best exercise type, duration, and intensity to improve immune resilience.
If you are healthy and not dealing with an immune challenge or an infection, the goal is to achieve an exercise high from your workout — without feeling worn out afterward. This releases endorphins, which are natural opioids that profoundly enhance immune function.
But what if you are already sick or have an infection? At this point you need to be careful not to fatigue yourself. The more intensely you exercise, the more antioxidants you burn up in response to inflammatory free radicals produced by exercise. If you are in a compromised state, this can dampen your immune function. If you are coming down with something, that is not the time to exercise intensively. However, a brisk walk or other light exercise can still support your immune function.
If you’re in the throes of a viral infection but still able to walk and move around, simply walking around your house can still positively impact your lymphatic system and immune function.
Daily strategies for immune support
Because our immune systems are constantly challenged by stress, environmental toxins, and other factors, we need daily strategies to support healthy immune function. In addition to appropriate levels of exercise, this also includes emphasizing proper diet, plenty of good sleep, proper hydration, natural opioid release, and other factors. You can learn about these concepts in more depth in my FREE program Everyday Immune Resilience.