We’ve weathered a tough season, and spring is less than a month away, but taking good care of yourself is vital every day of the year. A great way to give your immune system a lift and rev up the body’s defense mechanism is walking and biking.
A strong immune system is essential for fighting off illness. While many factors influence the strength of your immune system, physical activity can play a big role.
What exactly is the immune system? And how does regular exercise such as walking or biking help it?
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs. Together they help defend your body against infections and diseases. Substances harmful or foreign to the body, germs, like a virus, are called antigens. Your immune system’s response to an antigen is to make antibodies — proteins that work to attack, weaken, and destroy antigens. Your body also makes other cells to fight the antigen.
Your immune system remembers the antigen, and if it sees it again, recognizes it and sends out the right antibodies, so you don’t get sick.
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work like this – they teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response producing antibodies, to protect you from getting infected if the virus enters the body.
Regularly going for a walk or taking a bike ride can benefit your immune system by helping immune cells to perform effectively — increasing blood flow, reducing stress and inflammation, and strengthening antibodies.
Getting the blood circulating, achievable by walking or biking often, helps the white blood cells in the immune system roam around the body as needed.
Stress can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system, so here’s where stress-busting physical activity helps.
Reduced inflammation allows the immune system to perform better. Even just 20 minutes a day of vigorous exercise, with its anti-inflammatory effect, can give the immune system a boost. Developing a habit of 30 minutes each day, say a fake commute of moderate exercise, like a bike ride or brisk walk, can reduce inflammation and help immune cells regenerate regularly.
A daily dose of physical activity also stimulates the recruitment of the immune system’s best fighter cells.
The more consistently you move your body, the better prepared the immune system is to wipe out what makes you sick.
It also doesn't hurt that walking and biking improve the health of the environment too.