Most of us know we need to exercise to maintain our fitness and protect our health. But for those struggling to find the motivation to work out, it’s useful to know how much you really need to do to boost your immune system.
There is evidence to suggest that exercising regularly can improve your immune system, and therefore your chances of fighting off any illness. And in these times of coronavirus, this is something many of us are particularly interested in.
Why how much exercise you take matters
The virus and its consequences mean that more people than ever are searching for ways to relieve their stress and keep well. For many people, regular workout is the ideal solution. Not only does it boost your mood, but regular exercise will also give you more energy and help you deal with stress.
The link between exercise and the immune system is hotly debated by scientists. Researchers have been studying it for years and there are conflicting opinions. For example, some researchers say that exercising intensely without recovering properly can actually increase you’re chances of getting sick. But another study from 2018 says it debunks the idea that too much intense exercise suppresses the immune system.
As with most things, the answer is somewhere in between the two extremes. Recent research shows that regular, moderate exercise is good for our general health and our immune systems.
Which type of workout is best for keeping healthy?
Evidence is also mixed regarding which type of workout is best for the immune system. In scientific terms, exercise has a short-term effect on the white blood cells in the body. These are the body’s defence against infection. When we put our body under stress through exercise, the white blood cells are increased which, in theory, means more protection against illness.
Interestingly, the exercise you do doesn’t necessarily have to be hardcore before this immune system response kicks in. Pretty much any exercise done for at least 15 minutes a day is helpful. Exercise also lowers stress levels, which can help you avoid illness. It’s known that stress levels affect the immune system and can really slow down our body’s fightback against disease.
There is little doubt that doing too much exercise can be bad for you too. Overtraining can weaken your immune system and damage your body. Any exercise programme should include adequate rest and recovery time for you to get the true benefits from it. The best course of action is to regularly exercise and don’t overstrain yourself. While living under the stressors of the pandemic, it’s better to prioritise regular, moderate exercise rather than train for something major.
How often should you working out to stay well?
To keep healthy, you don’t need to set yourself the target of running a marathon. Official advice from the NHS is that everyone should do at least 150 minutes of moderate workout every week as a baseline. That’s just half an hour a day for five days of the week.
People who exercise for around half an hour a day most days appear to get ill less often than those who don’t. If you prefer to exercise vigorously, then the amount of time you need to set aside per week drops to 75 minutes. Ideally, you should spread out your training, so you do a bit every day, rather than rely on completing the whole lot in one day. It’s about exercising without overtaxing your system.
And while there is no guarantee that any kind of lifestyle precautions can stop you catching COVID-19, there is evidence that the leaner and fitter you are the better your chances of dealing with it. Those who have exercised regularly before contracting the virus are more likely to suffer less and recover faster. There also appears to be a link between obesity and mortality for coronavirus sufferers. Regular exercise and eating well are the best forms of defence against the virus during these challenging times.