Exercise and immune system

Did you know that regular, moderate exercise improves the function of your immune system? This is true for people of all ages, but has been studied at particular length in older (60+) adults. One recent study out of the University of Houston concluded that while “[a]ging is associated with many discernible changes in the immune system . . . . habitual exercise is capable of regulating the immune system and delaying the onset of immunosenescence”—a hundred dollar word for a decline in normal immune system functioning (Simpson et al., p. 416).

Exercise helps improve your immune system and emotional wellbeing

With COVID-19 causing so much concern and disruption, I’m sure you know why I’m bringing this up now. I feel compelled to point out how important it is that we protect not only our physical health, but also our mental health from feelings of anxiety and helplessness. I’m certainly not suggesting that exercise can prevent COVID-19 (wouldn’t that be wonderful?), but it’s good to know that exercise does for a fact help support a healthier, stronger immune system.

Yet as hinted above, the ways in which regular exercise helps to support mental and emotional wellbeing are just as important. From the gentle dopamine hit and endorphin rush we get from movement to the sense of accomplishment and self-mastery we feel when we do something good for the preservation of our health, exercise is as good for our minds as it is for our bodies. Especially in the midst of uncertainty, sticking to our usual exercise routine (or taking the reins and establishing one!) helps us maintain a sense of both normalcy and agency. Instead of being victims to forces outside our control, we are doing all we can to stay healthy and calm as we weather this crisis.

Get a move on at home

While the risk of becoming infected remains low, cases of COVID-19 in Canada are increasing. It is our responsibility not only to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, but also to do our part to reduce the burden on our health care system and health care workers. To this end, our studios in Toronto are closed until at least March 31st.

We’ll miss all of you during this period of social distancing, but as long as you’re feeling well,  we want to encourage you to get a move on at home! Turn up your favourite music and dance, throw down a mat and stretch, run (carefully!) up and down the stairs. And remember that the Internet can be good for more than just obsessively checking the news: from YouTube to streaming services, there is an abundance of exercise-at-home resources available online. Naturally we’re partial to our BH on Demand library, which contains dozens of Pilates & Movement videos so you can move well in the comfort of your home.

Take a mental break from COVID-19

Putting down our phones, closing our laptops, and turning off our televisions may seem difficult, but shutting down all exposure to the media and turning inward for an hour of self-care through movement is arguably some of the best medicine out there right now. The important thing is to just keep moving—for your physical health, certainly, but also to support your mental wellbeing during this challenging time.

Source: Richard J. Simpson and Thomas W. Lowder et al. “Exercise and the Aging Immune System.” Ageing Research Reviews July 2012, 11(3), p. 404-420.