Exercise as Medicine
It’s that time of year again. Colds and the flu are spreading and you are left wondering, how can I avoid getting sick? Or if you’ve already gotten sick, how can I start feeling better? For most people this means loading up on medicine. While medicine may help you feel better while battling a nasty cold, exercise can help you avoid getting sick and decrease the severity of symptoms. Exercise is one of the most pro-active things you can do to prevent illness. According to a study by the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University, people who exercise regularly suffered fewer colds compared to sedentary people and reported 43 percent fewer sick days due to upper respiratory tract infection. The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, states that “regular exercise stimulates the immune system by increasing the number of immune system cells that circulate in your body.” The best part is you don’t have to spend hours upon hours every day working out to see these benefits. Aerobic exercise 5 days per week for 20 minutes a day is a great starting point. Go for a brisk walk or a bike ride or once the snow falls try cross country skiing or snowshoeing. If you aren’t a fan of being out in the snow, ice, and cold that Wisconsin has to offer, consider joining a gym for the winter months. The more active you can be throughout your day, the better. After exercise your immune system cells stay stimulated for about 3 hours, so the more active you are throughout your day, the more active your immune system will remain. Along with exercise the other most important things you can do to stay healthy is feed your body the proper nutrients it needs and stay hydrated. Eating junk food increases inflammation and dehydration, and decreases cellular recovery, all of which diminish your immune function. Staying hydrated is critical to not only your immune system functioning properly, but every system in your body depends on water. Poor hydration weakens the body’s immune system and leads to chemical, nutritional, and pH imbalances, which can eventually cause sickness. There are many different recommendations on how much water you need to drink daily, but the one I like best is to drink half your body weight in ounces per day. For example, a 200 pound person would need to drink 100 ounces of water. This is a baseline recommendation and you would need to drink more depending on activity level. Unfortunately, these things do not guarantee you staying healthy all winter long. If you do get sick, the best thing you can do is rest. Once your immune system starts fighting off an illness it is already working at capacity and taxing your core nervous system and other metabolic pathways will only use up any remaining resources that might be used to get you healthy. Listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. If you have any questions about getting started on or continuing an exercise program I’d be happy to answer any questions or help you out. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com or if you are in Eau Claire stop by Anytime Fitness on Water Street and we can visit.