A weak immune system can present itself in all manner of ways - low energy levels, constant fatigue, allergies, regular colds and infections, even serious disease. However, there are some fantastic exercises to strengthen immune systems. Today we’re going to look at three of our favourite ways to stay active. They tick all the boxes - they’re good for the body, the mind and the soul:
To the best of our knowledge, nobody has ever reported feeling stressed during a yoga class!
On the contrary, yoga is a spiritual journey as much (if not more) than it is a physical one. It’s about finding harmony with the body, mind and environment. Stress can suppress our defences and wreak havoc on our health in so many ways. Using yoga to practice peace and stillness and connecting the body to the mind can be a really positive way to manage this.
Moreover, a recent study suggests that practicing yoga may have a positive anti-inflammatory effect on the body, with strong evidence that it might reduce a particular cytokine (secretion from immune system cells that can in turn affect other cells) known as IL-1beta.
Just remember, as is the case with so many things in life, this is not an overnight wonder. Certainly, when it comes to mind-body practices such as yoga, it’s consistency and practice that put us on a path to progress.
Six immune-boosting yoga poses
Sukhasana and Pranayama, or sitting and breathing - encourages deep relaxation and mindfulness, therefore reducing stress or anxiety
- Setu Bandhasana, or Bridge Pose - opens the heart and improves circulation
- Halasana, or Plow Pose - to get white blood cells circulating
Ardha Matsyendrasana, or Half Lord of the Fishes - core twists help release toxin build-up in our digestive system
Uttanasana, or Forward Fold - inversions encourage blood circulation
Bhujangasana, or Cobra Pose - stimulates the thymus (a lymphoid organ in which white blood cells mature)
Exercising in nature
Have you heard of the concept of biophilia?
The dictionary defines it as a “hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature”. Look at any recent, influential building or development and you will see its active presence - more windows to allow in natural light and offer connecting views to the outdoors; more natural ventilation to bring ‘real’ air into rooms; more plants and vegetation to provide a tactile, living link to nature. More and more designers, developers and planners realise that, in order to get the best out of people and to encourage wellbeing, it’s crucial to bring the outdoors in.
OK, so why not get outdoors more often, in that case?
Studies show that exercising outside, rather than staying home or in a gym, can be more beneficial for our mental health. When we head to the great outdoors we experience a decrease in tension and depression, an increase in energy levels and improved vitality.
Heading outside can also expose us to vitamin D, an important vitamin that supports our immune system as well as the health of our bones.
But perhaps we should look at Mother Nature as an overall multivitamin? When we take our physical activity outdoors we may expose ourselves to phytoncides (organic compounds derived from plants), mycobacterium vaccae (non pathogenic bacteria living naturally in soil), and negative air ions (electricity-charged molecules in the atmosphere, found in abundance outside).
One researcher suggests the potent effect of the outdoors on our system could be to do with its “rest and digest” influence on our system. This is a direct contrast to the “fight or flight” approach, which immediately sees the body shut down anything non-essential, including our defences.
Perhaps the ultimate combination is regular yoga sessions outside?
If yoga is not your jam, then how about just walking outside (especially barefoot, eg on the beach or grass); taking your pet pooch or a borrowed doggy for some exercise, or feeding the ducks at a local pond?
Green thumbs and getting dirty
Possibly an unexpected contender, but have you given any thought to gardening? It’s outdoors, so it ticks so many of the above boxes. It’s very often an exercise in mindfulness - you’re focusing on the job at hand and systematically working through the motions.
But not only that - you’re exposing yourself to bacteria.
That unavoidable dirt that you accidentally smear on your face when you wipe that brow? The dark half moons under your nails? It’s all putting you in contact with a bunch of dirty germs, and it’s all part of the Hygiene Hypothesis.
This theory proposes that exposure to these (usually mild) microorganisms is needed to build up our immunity, especially in kids. In doing so, our bodies develop antibodies for an array of microbes, and it might even help build our defences against more powerful threats like allergies and asthma. Indeed, a study in continental Europe sampled households representing over 9,000 kids aged between six and twelve years old found that health problems such as flu, tonsillitis, sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia were more prevalent in the homes cleaning with bleach. Exposing ourselves to, rather than avoiding germs, is nature’s way of building our resilience and defence.
So, is our take-home from this now to go and do yoga outside in the back garden?Haha - take from it what you will, but we hope these exercises to strengthen immune systems are helpful and inspiring to you and your journey.
Remember, if you’re looking to build your resilience and health through exercise, then a good approach is balance. Take things in moderation and listen to your body. It is sure to respond and tell you in no uncertain terms whether this form of activity works for you, or whether the duration of exercise and effort required is right for you.
What activities do you enjoy doing that you think have a direct and positive impact on your general wellbeing? We’d love to hear from you with your tried and tested suggestions!
Want to find out more?
Corinna and the Edible Health Team.
The information we have provided herewith, and all linked materials, are not intended nor should they be construed as medical advice. Moreover, the information herewith should not be used as a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions and consult your General Practitioner for advice specific for you.