With cold and flu season upon us and the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, none of us can afford to take our immune systems for granted.
A robust immune system can make our bodies better equipped to overcome a variety of illnesses, so anyone looking to take preventative measures against sickness would do well to strengthen their immunity.
However, bolstering the immune system is far from a “one size fits all” affair, and at present, there’s no ironclad link between lifestyle and immune system function. Still, if you’re looking to avoid getting sick and keep your immune system in good shape, the following common sense measures are likely to prove useful.
Keep Your Stress Levels in Check
There’s no denying that we’re living in stressful times. Between the ongoing threat of an active pandemic, work responsibilities and personal obligations, many people feel like they’re constantly standing at the precipice of a mental breakdown. If not kept in check, stress can come to dominate one’s life and leave them in a state of perpetual unease. Furthermore, as revealed by a report from the American Psychological Association, long-term stress can weaken immune system responses.
To nip high stress levels in the bud, engage in activities that relax you and calm your mind on a regular basis. Breathing exercises and meditation can also prove helpful when it comes to stress management.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Proper sleep is synonymous with a wide range of health benefits. A peaceful night’s rest can provide you with ample energy to face the day head-on, heighten your concentration abilities and place you in a better frame of mind. On the flipside, failing to get enough sleep can result in poor focus, persistent irritability and waning energy levels.
Lack of sleep also stands to impact your immune system. When you’re asleep, your immune system releases proteins known as cytokines. When you’re suffering from an infection, inflammation or high stress levels, certain cytokines need to increase. However, not getting enough sleep may lead to a decrease in cytokine production, leaving you more vulnerable to the aforementioned afflictions. Furthermore, cells and antibodies that help fight infections are reduced during bouts of sleep deprivation. Habitual lack of sleep can also increase your risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
In the interest of maintaining a strong immune system, most adults should get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, teenagers should get between nine and 10 hours and younger children should get 10 or more. If you suspect your sleep issues are affected your immune system, talk to your doctor about immune support options.
Engage in Regular Exercise
Like proper sleep habits, regular exercise is associated with a convenient assortment of perks. For example, exercising on a consistent basis can help you improve your mental health, maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of heart disease. As shown in a 2019 scientific review, acute exercise – i.e., moderate-to-vigorous exercise – may be able to increase the circulation of immune cells. This makes it easier for these cells to traverse your body at a higher rate and in higher numbers.
In order to consistently enjoy the immune system-boosting benefits of exercise, you’ll need to engage in fitness activities on a regular basis. With the ongoing threat of COVID-19 making gyms and public workouts unsafe, people who are accustomed to outside-the-house exercise may feel put out. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to stay fit from the comfort of home. In addition to investing in at-home fitness equipment, house-bound exercise enthusiasts may want to consider trying out some movement-oriented apps and video games. If you’re unclear on what type of at-home fitness is best suited to your age and lifestyle, place a call to your doctor or fire up your favorite search engine.
Even in the best of times, good immunity is important. A strong immune system can mean the difference between quickly overcoming a virus and suffering the worst possible effects of it. Unfortunately, when it comes to strengthening the immune system, there’s no miracle cure. While certain lifestyle changes and behaviors have come to be associated with heightened immunity, a clear-cut link between the two has yet to be found. Anyone looking for ways to potentially reduce their chances of illness may find success with the measures discussed above.