Firstly, let’s look at exactly what the Immune System is.
The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. The immune system keeps a record of every germ (microbe) it has ever defeated so it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again.
The body has many systems in place to fight these germs, particularly the lymphatic system, including lymph nodes, lymph tissue and lymph cells, thymus, bone marrow and tonsils. These systems are always working away to protect us, especially when foreign germs enter our body.
An example of this is when we attend the Doctors for a Flu injection. The idea is that the injection is introducing a foreign strain of this microbiome, so it can build an immunity against it for future. This helps our immune system protect our body during the flu season and at times of lowered immunity.
How can we strengthen our Immune System?
There are many ways we can protect ourselves and strengthen our immune system, and in general, it comes down to being as healthy as possible!
Maintain a healthy diet full of fruit, vegetables and protein.
Stay well hydrated
Limit alcohol intake
Get adequate sleep (see more on sleep here)
Take steps to avoid infection (wash your hands often, cover your mouth when coughing etc).
Let’s look at EXERCISE!
Exercise has been shown to improve our immune system, however its effectiveness in boosting the immune system appears to be specifically linked to intensity and duration. There seems to be a ‘sweet spot’ in linking exercise to immunity.
Research shows that exercise has the ability to positive influence anti-inflammatory changes and metabolic health. However, research also shows that there is an increased risk of illness as endurance and intensity over time increases. This is particularly evident if the individual is not well adapted to this type of training.
When reviewing all available research evidence, it is clear that moderately intense exercise has the ability to improve the immune system to help fight viruses and bugs. Exercise should be included as part of our health and wellness routines.
If you currently already exercise – continue what you are doing while considering good hygiene.
If you are new to exercise, take the common sense approach! Start slowly, and allow your body to adapt to these new loads and movements. Give yourself time to build up to high intensity or endurance exercises. Trying to go from nothing to a marathon will only lower the immune system, as the body uses all of its energy trying to recover!
It is recommended that the average Australian adult aims to accumulate 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise per week. This breaks down to just 21 minutes per day! This should be a mix of strength, cardiovascular and flexibility based movements.
How to stay hygienic within the gym:
When considering hygiene in a public space such as at the gym, simply take the common sense approach! Take a look at the specific requirements of your gym and follow them, both for the health and safety of yourself, but other patrons as well!
Some very common requirements include:
Bring a towel and actively use on all equipment
Wipe all sweat from equipment and floor
Use the anti-bacterial wipes available after each use of equipment
Wipe down all touch points after use including bench handles, dumbells, clips and bench tops
Wash your hands with hot water and soap after using the bathroom
Use hand sanitiser if available
Don’t access the gym if you are clearly showing signs of cold and flu – go for a light walk outdoors instead!
In summary, exercise is essential to good health and has the ability to strengthen the immune system.
Remember to be smart and listen to your body, resting when you need to. When you do exercise, practice good hygiene and abide by your gym rules. By keeping yourself healthy and clean, you are positively influencing those around you – especially those who are immunosuppressed or immune compromised.