Be active, be strong
Jan 23 2014
A lot of has been written about exercise systems like pilates and yoga having a strong and positive effect on one’s immunity, but I will stick to the larger debate of all forms of exercise in general. Admittedly there is still no concrete set of proofs that define how exercise increases immunity to certain diseases, but several plausible theories have been put forward to support the claims that exercise not only helps your immune system fight off simple bacterial and viral infections, it decreases your chances of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.
While the positive link between exercise and fighting osteoporosis and cardiac diseases have been established (light weight training promotes vertical load on the bones thus helping them recover, while light to moderate cardio workout strengthen the heart muscle and helps with weight loss, both helping in dealing with cardiac diseases), things are not so clear when it comes to some other diseases.
Some theories presented to the public included this one that said that the body of a person who works out is more capable of flushing bacteria from the lungs, therefore has a smaller chance of contracting a cold, flu, or other airborne illness. This theory also goes on to say that regular exercising may flush out cancer-causing cells (carcinogens) by increasing output of wastes, such as urine and sweat. It is also argued that exercise sends antibodies the body’s defence cells through the body at a quicker rate. This helps the antibodies circulate faster increasing their ability to detect illnesses earlier than they might do normally. The improved circulation of blood releases hormones that “warn” immune cells of bacteria or viruses that may have entered the body. Also, the rise in body temperature after or during exercise may prevent bacterial growth, allowing the body to fight the infection more effectively. This is why the body has a fever when we get an infection.
I could go on listing the benefits of exercise that help prevent diseases and lifestyle related disorders as regular exercise helps maintain weight, control stress and keep joints active among others. But the most crucial benefit of exercise is that it helps you connect with your body. You learn to observe and care for your body better, you will be more attuned to the signals your body sends out when something is beginning to go wrong, and that extra bit of time and awareness can make a very big difference to your overall well being.
(The author is a wellness expert and runs a fitness centre in New Delhi)