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Physical fitness has been shown to improve both physical and mental health. It prevents obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and stress, among other potentially fatal conditions. A number of studies on colds now show that moderate exercise on a regular basis can boost an individual’s immunity and protect against certain illnesses.

Immune Health

According to new research, physical activity causes physiological changes in the immune system. Exercise, for example, can boost the production of macrophages, a type of white blood cell that targets and attacks bacteria and other foreign particles in the body, lowering the risk of contracting certain illnesses, particularly upper respiratory tract infections. Exercise also hastens the circulation of these immune-fighting cells throughout the body, resulting in significantly improved immunity. When a person exercises, their body temperature rises for a short period of time, which is thought to help prevent bacterial growth.

Excessive exercise, on the other hand, can do more harm than good. Though stress hormones are released more slowly when the body is physically active, lowering the likelihood of becoming ill, high-intensity activity over an extended period of time may elevate stress and increase the number of white blood cells. Conventional cardio routines can result in inflammation, artery and heart muscle thickening, arrhythmias, and, in rare cases, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest. This is sometimes seen in athletes competing in marathons and triathlons, where the extreme activity can make them more susceptible to infections.

As a result, it is critical to consider how much and what type of exercise is best for any given individual, as well as the appropriate conditions in which to engage in physical activity. Essentially, allowing the body enough time to rest and repair after a strenuous fitness routine maximizes the benefits of exercise.

EXERCISE – A PREVENTATIVE MEDICATION

Years of research have shown that physical activity has numerous preventative health benefits, the most important of which is its effect on insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity by regulating the levels of glucose, insulin, and leptin in the body. This reduces the risk of chronic infections and improves overall health. Physical activity can also help reduce the risk of having a stroke.

In addition, excessive sitting has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases. According to studies, people who sit for long periods of time are twice as likely to develop diabetes and heart disease as those who sit for shorter periods of time. Frequent movements, even if they are as simple as standing up and stretching in place every 15 minutes, can help offset the negative effects of prolonged inactivity. Ideally, this should be combined with two to three times per week of effective aerobic, core, and muscle-strengthening activities.

FIGHTING COLD AND FLU

Exercise increases the circulation of certain disease-fighting immune system agents throughout the body, which aids in identifying and combating an illness before it spreads. Colds and flu, among other illnesses, can be avoided by keeping the body physically active. According to research, moderate-intensity activities, such as taking a 20- to 30-minute walk each day, biking, or going to the gym a few times per week, effectively reduce the risk of catching a cold by increasing the number of white blood cells that fight infections. To avoid catching the flu, it is also strongly advised that a person engage in two and a half hours of vigorous exercise per week.

When one has a cold, however, it is best to avoid exercising, especially if one is taking medication, such as decongestants, as this may overstress the heart by forcing it to beat too quickly. Exercise may also put undue strain on the body if you have a fever and a cold, and it may also slow down recovery.

CHECKING WITH A DOCTOR

If a person with a cold exercises and experiences chest congestion, coughing, and wheezing, he or she should see a doctor. If the person’s breathing becomes labored, or if he or she feels faint or dizzy, has difficulty balancing, or feels pressure or tightness in the chest, emergency medical attention is required. And if an asthmatic person has a cold, he or she should seek medical advice before engaging in strenuous physical activity.

An Hour of Daily Exercise

According to one study, people who engage in three to five times the recommended minimum level of leisure-time physical activity benefit the most in terms of mortality reduction when compared to people who do not engage in leisure-time physical activity. The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services‘ (HHS) Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, recommend at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 1.25 hours of vigorous aerobic activity per week, but more activity is encouraged for additional health benefits.

This study confirms that meeting the minimum recommended levels of physical activity results in a large portion of the mortality benefit and describes the increased mortality benefit associated with higher levels of physical activity. The study was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine on April 6, 2015.

RESULTS

  1. Engaging in one to two times the recommended minimum level of leisure-time physical activity (i.e., 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity activity, such as running) provided the majority of the observed longevity benefits: a 31% lower risk of death when compared to people who did not engage in leisure-time physical activity.
  2. The benefit appeared to level off at a 39 percent lower risk of death at three to five times the recommended minimum level of leisure-time physical activity, compared to those who did no leisure-time physical activity. This level of activity could be attained by:
    • walking 7 hours per week
    • biking leisurely 5 hours per week
    • running at a 10 minute/mile pace for 2.25 hours per week
  3. There was no additional mortality benefit at 10 or more times the recommended minimum level of leisure-time physical activity, but there was also no increased risk of death.

Bone Health

Bone, like muscle, is living tissue that grows stronger in response to exercise. Young women and men who exercise on a regular basis have higher peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) than those who do not. The majority of people reach their peak bone mass during their third decade of life. After that, we may start to lose bone. Regular exercise can help women and men over the age of 20 prevent bone loss. Exercising helps us maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which aids in the prevention of falls and related fractures. This is especially important for older adults and people who have osteoporosis.

BONE BUILDING EXERCISE

Weight-bearing exercise, which forces you to work against gravity, is the best for your bones. Weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing are all examples of weight-bearing exercises. Swimming and bicycling are two examples of non-weight-bearing exercises. Although these activities aid in the development and maintenance of strong muscles and provide excellent cardiovascular benefits, they are not the best way to exercise your bones.

EXERCISE TIPS

If you have a medical condition, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity, or if you are 40 or older, consult your doctor before beginning a regular exercise program. The Surgeon General recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days, preferably daily.

Pay attention to your body. When you first begin an exercise routine, you may experience some muscle soreness and discomfort, but this should not be painful or last longer than 48 hours. If it does, you may be working too hard and should take a break. If you experience any chest pain or discomfort while exercising, stop immediately and consult your doctor before continuing.

OSTEOPOROSIS

If you have osteoporosis, consult your doctor about which activities are appropriate for you. Experts recommend that if you have low bone mass, you protect your spine by avoiding exercises or activities that flex, bend, or twist it. You should also avoid high-impact exercise to reduce your chances of breaking a bone. You should also consult with an exercise specialist to learn the proper progression of activity, how to safely stretch and strengthen muscles, and how to correct bad posture habits.

Keep in mind that exercise is only one component of an osteoporosis prevention or treatment program. Exercise, like a calcium and vitamin D-rich diet, helps strengthen bones at any age. However, regular exercise and a healthy diet may not be enough to prevent bone loss caused by medical conditions, menopause, or lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. It is critical to discuss your bone health with your doctor. Determine whether you are a candidate for a bone mineral density test. If you’ve been diagnosed with low bone mass, find out what medications can help you keep your bones strong.

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a condition in which a waxy substance known as plaque accumulates inside the coronary arteries. These arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Atherosclerosis is a condition that occurs when plaque accumulates in the arteries. Plaque accumulates over a long period of time. Plaque can harden or rupture over time (break open). It hardens and narrows the coronary arteries, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

Angina or a heart attack can occur if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle is reduced or blocked. Angina is characterized by chest pain or discomfort. In your chest, you may feel pressure or squeezing. Pain can also be felt in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Angina pain can even mimic indigestion. When the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle is interrupted, a heart attack occurs. If blood flow is not quickly restored, a section of heart muscle begins to die. A heart attack, if not treated promptly, can result in serious health problems or death.

CHD can weaken the heart muscle over time, leading to heart failure and arrhythmias. Heart failure occurs when your heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Arrhythmias are irregularities in the heartbeat’s rate or rhythm.

PREVENTION

You can prevent and control coronary heart disease (CHD) by reducing your risk factors through heart-healthy lifestyle changes and medications. High blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and being overweight or obese are examples of risk factors that you can control. Only a few risk factors, such as age, gender, and family history, are beyond our control.

The number of risk factors you have increases your risk of CHD. To reduce your risk of CHD and heart attack, try to control each risk factor by adopting the heart-healthy lifestyles listed below:

  • Heart-healthy eating
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Physical activity
  • Quitting smoking

Learn about your family’s history of CHD-related health issues. Inform your doctor if you or someone in your family has CHD. If lifestyle changes are insufficient, you may need to take medications to control your CHD risk factors.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Physical activity on a regular basis and a reduction in sedentary lifestyle can improve physical fitness, lower many heart disease risk factors such as bad LDL cholesterol levels and increase good HDL cholesterol levels in the blood, control high blood pressure, and help you lose excess weight. It can also reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Everyone should try to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is any activity that causes your heart to beat faster and your body to use more oxygen than usual. The more active you are, the more benefits you will receive. Participate in aerobic exercise for at least 10 minutes per day, five days a week.

Another way to start increasing your activity level is to reduce the amount of time you sit at a given time. Long periods of sitting have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and death. Reducing sedentary behavior by varying the amount of time you sit will improve your overall health.

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