You can boost your immunity through proper exercise
Starting in adolescence our body’s internal army, the immune system, slowly begins to lose its ability to fight off invaders such as viruses and bacteria. The reason for this is believed to be the gradual shrinking of our body’s primary organ of the immune system, the thymus gland, which begins to shrink around puberty and by age 60 is barely visible.
The thymus is, in a sense a definitive marker, of the aging process itself, making it yet another biomarker of aging referred to as immunosenescence. As the thymus gland declines, the rise in age-associated disease occurs.
Health Exercise Blog
So what does this have to do with exercise? Well for one, proper exercise elevates growth hormone levels, which in turn help to regulate immunity. Researchers have known for years that one of the most effective ways to invite illness into your life is to experience several bouts of mental or physical stress. But more and more research is indicating that regular exercise can help guard against the negative effects of stress on our immune systems. To experience the rewards of this immune insurance from exercise, the exercise program needs to begin before the stressful situation takes place.
If you delay exercising until the day the stress begins, you will most certainly not prevent the negative effects of stress on the immune system.
Other research points to the fact that regular exercise helps to increase the numbers of internal soldiers in response to the exercise. One of our most powerful lines of defense lies in our ability to up-regulate the numbers and activity of a group of immune cells called Natural Killer cells (NK), which are able to gobble up infected cancer and virus cells.
As we age, our NK numbers and activity decline, opening the door to illness and disease. Proper exercise is one way to naturally increase the overall activity and numbers of these important allies, in young and old alike. In a 1999 study, otherwise sedentary elderly people were carefully monitored while exercising over a six-month period. At the end of the study the researchers concluded that six months of supervised exercise training could lead to nominal increases in certain measures of immune function, especially the NK cells.
Mixing it up for a lean muscular physique
Most people think that aerobic activity is the best exercise for long-term fat loss. If you’re one of them, you’d be wrong. Unless you’re planning on getting a flat, your main objective is to get rid of the spare tire. If you were going to commit yourself solely to aerobic training, then you will be carrying around the spare for a lot longer than you’d like.
Studies show that too much cardio performed in the absence of resistance training can be detrimental to long-term fat loss. Cardio itself is not the enemy. The problem lies in the amount and intensity of the cardio activity. The truth is, too much high-intensity cardio exercise is detrimental to your metabolic engine, muscle. Research has confirmed that high-intensity cardio activity cannot maintain muscle mass on its own.
The dynamic duo of exercise
In a landmark study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, aerobic training was compared to aerobic-with-resistance (weight) training. Two groups had to complete a 10-week exercise program of 75 minutes. One group completed 75 minutes of aerobic exercise twice a week, while the other completed 40 minutes of aerobics plus 35 minutes of weight training. The time spent training was identical.
At the end of the study, the aerobics group showed an 11 percent increase in endurance, but no increase in their strength. The group that completed the combination of aerobics plus weight training showed a massive 109 percent increase in their endurance, and a 21-43 percent increase in overall strength. Many other studies further prove the theory that resistance training combined with low-impact cardio is superior to either one alone.
In order to stop our bodies from declining, we first have to engage in a progressive resistance program. Weight-training routines should be changed monthly in order to keep your body from adapting to the exercises so that you keep progressing. Studies prove that our bodies can adapt to an exercise routine in as little as six sessions. For continuous results we need to keep our bodies guessing as to what is about to hit them. Weight training is the only scientific way to increase the lean muscle and strength that you lose through aging.
Why is muscle so important? Because muscle is the metabolic engine of the body. The more muscle you carry on your frame, the higher your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which refers to your ability to utilize calories, and the more fat you burn, 24 hours each day.
So if you add muscle during your exercise program or at least keep the muscle you had in your youth, you will be well on your way to reversing some of the biomarkers of aging. The good news is, when it comes to proper exercise (you’re going to like this part), less (duration) can often mean more (results – less fat and more muscle.
In my next blog, I will discuss the hormonal effects of proper exercise and what you need to know about high intensity/short duration exercising.