By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
With the spread of COVID-19, we must keep our immune systems in tip-top condition. Since most of us are on lockdown at the moment, our resources are limited. A robust immune system is critical to your health—and that’s true these days more than ever. Although no one thing will cure or prevent the coronavirus, building a strong immune system is one of the best ways to stay healthy in general. Let’s talk about how to boost your immune system at home so you can fight off illness more effectively.
The immune system is complicated. When we talk about the immune system, it’s not a single thing that we can easily measure. What you eat, how much you exercise, and how much sleep you get all play a role in your immune system. When it comes to preventing illness, I can not emphasize enough the importance of regular hand washing and good hygiene practices. But, by boosting your immune system naturally through healthy lifestyle choices, you can increase your likelihood of staying healthy.
By following a healthy lifestyle, you’re giving your body the best chance at health. To boost your immune system, here are seven smart tips to add to your self-care list.
For most of us, stress is a part of everyday life. Stress can help motivate you at times, but it can also leave you feeling overwhelmed. When we’re stressed, it reduces our body’s ability to fight off illness. Chronic stress can take a toll on the immune system.
By reducing stress, you not only give your mind a break, but it takes the pressure off the immune system. Usually, lowering stress is easier said than done. To manage stress better and find a balance, you can incorporate stress reducers into your home routine. Things like nature, bathing, yoga, and meditation can all work wonders for stress.
We’re a sleep-deprived nation with up to seventy percent of adults not getting sufficient sleep. Sleep is a basic need and has a massive impact on the immune system.
Studies show that when you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. When you sleep, your immune system produces proteins called cytokines. These proteins target infection and inflammation. When you’re sick, your body needs more of certain types of cytokines. Without proper sleep, your body won’t make enough of them. While more sleep may not prevent you from getting sick, it can make you more susceptible to getting sick in the first place.
Getting enough sleep not only boosts your immune system but can help reduce stress, stay at a healthy weight, and lower your risk of serious health conditions. If you’re one of the many people that struggle to doze off, here are some tips for sleeping better:
Stay active at home. Working out is a powerful way to boost your immune system. Regular exercise is one of the foundational pillars of healthy living. It helps to improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and protect against several diseases.
Exercise causes changes in white blood cells and antibodies. White blood cells are immune system cells that fight off infection. Exercise may also help to flush out bacteria from the lungs and airways.
Although we can’t get to the gym right now, it’s more important than ever to keep exercising and stay healthy. Virtual training platforms are a great way to mix up your home workout. ClassPass Live and Alo Moves are an excellent place to start with plenty of workouts for all abilities. Or, you can try a free 1AND1 Life at-home workout plan.
Smokers have an increased risk of catching infections and suffering from more severe complications. When you quit smoking, it improves your circulation and lowers inflammation, which gives your immune system a boost. It probably comes as no surprise that smoking is bad for your immune system considering the negative effect it has on almost every organ in the body.
With over seventy known cancer-causing chemicals in cigarettes, we shouldn’t need any more reasons not to smoke. It’s never too late to quit smoking. Even after just twelve hours without a cigarette, your body starts to cleanse itself of the excess carbon monoxide. It’s hard to break the cycle of addiction, but once you begin to rewire your brain, your body will feel the benefits almost immediately.
As much as it’s tempting to reach for that quarantini cocktail right now, it’s important to moderate drinking. Drinking too much alcohol can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness.
Healthy lifestyle choices like exercise and getting plenty of sleep can support the immune system. But, unhealthy factors like drinking alcohol excessively and smoking can be taxing for your immune system. This makes it harder for you to fight off infections. The CDC defines excessive drinking as eight or more drinks for women, and fifteen or more drinks for men per week.
To get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to fight off bugs and viruses, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats all form part of an immune-boosting diet.
While no single food will wipe out your immune system, poor nutrition can affect your immunity. Try to avoid overly processed foods and foods and drinks high in sugar. Some immune-friendly foods include:
In general, your immune system does an incredible job of protecting you. But, your lifestyle choices can affect your immune system, both positively and negatively. A healthy lifestyle is your body’s first line of defense. By following good health guidelines, you can boost your immune system and stay healthy. That means exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, eating right, and managing stress. Following any of these tips and guidelines will put you on the path to a healthier you.