Opinion: Exercise & immunity have a strong link

As the vital signs monitor beeps in the corner of the hospital room, Dr. Mary Jenson quietly enters and reviews the details of her most recent patient. Studying his profile and health history, she began to surmise a long list of necessary changes to his typical lifestyle. The young man who was lightly sleeping was Frank Sapplin, a 33-year-old nurse, who had contracted the coronavirus approximately three weeks ago.

Slowly waking, Sapplin notices Dr. Jenson and exchanges a greeting with her. Having recovered from the life-threatening symptoms of the virus, the hospital discharged him and advised him to self-isolate within his home. Going forward, Dr. Jensen suggested he make changes to his lifestyle and Sapplin decides that he would begin implementing her recommendations once he completely recovers.

During his lengthy hospital stay, Sapplin and Dr. Jenson had discussed multiple factors that would lead to increased immunity and prevention to sickness and especially the coronavirus. Besides dietary changes, such as reducing sugar consumption, she stressed the paramount importance of exercise and how it can actually increase one’s immunity and strength against any illness.

Although exercise is commonly correlated with staying physically in shape and many simply say “It’s just good for you,” the truly most important reason is to build up our immunity to illness. On a basic level, exercise can lead to better overall circulation, which allows “the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body” according to the Harvard Medical School.

When considering illness prevention, it is necessary for all people to understand how their immune system functions and it begins with the effects of exercise.

According to a 2019 study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, they concluded that “the immune system is very responsive to exercise” and countless older studies have proven immunity fluctuates with the amount of exercise performed as well.

One of the many studies mentioned in the Journal goes on to say that as far back as in 1902, a scientist concluded that changes in “white blood cell differential counts in Boston marathon runners paralleled those seen in certain diseased conditions.”

Our white blood cell count has always been a common method in which we can observe the strength of our immunity. With a multitude of other studies corroborating the same conclusion, we are able to observe how our immunity noticeably increases when we periodically exercise.

Additionally, according to a second prominent study archived in the National Library of Medicine and conducted by Ruth Sander, regular exercise also impacts vaccine response, increases T-cells and boosts the function of the natural killer cells in the immune system.

All three of the above benefits play key roles in maintaining our health. A faster vaccination response will enable one’s body to develop more prevention against certain foreign substances. On the other hand, T-cells are able to propel “immune defenders into action, whereas killer T cells target and destroy infected cells,” according to a recent report by Science Magazine.

When considering every perspective of this argument, some may debate that too much exercise actually suppresses one’s immune system, and could say that high-performance athletes have a more likely tendency to become sick.

Despite the above argument, a person’s immune system is never based on one factor — “anxiety, sleep disruption, travel, exposure, nutritional deficits, environmental extremes” could all lead to a lacking immune system according to a collaborative study in the National Library of Medicine. The amount of exercise an individual performs must be supplemented with proper recovery in order to decrease the likelihood of acquiring an illness.

With the benefits of exercise and fitness in mind, we must set aside time each day to act in a preventive manner. This may seem demanding, but according to Harvard Medical School, we simply need “at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of intense exercise a day.”

Rather than taking a therapeutic approach and attempting to heal ourselves only after we become sick, we need to be proactive by developing positive habits and having a firm stance on our health, which would significantly decrease our likelihood of becoming ill.

Especially as the Covid-19 cases begin to escalate once again, we must all be open to engaging in new strategies to maintain our health and to suppress the ongoing pandemic. Just by scheduling out half an hour to exercise, we can all make a lasting change in our own lives and help society take a step closer to normalcy once again.

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