An easy way to think of your immune system is by looking at it as your body’s personal army of protectors against foreign invaders. For those of us who don’t have compromised immune systems that require the help of medical professionals, a few simple things can go a long way towards helping you build and maintain a healthy immune system: diet, exercise, rest, repeat.
You typically can’t get through one commercial break without seeing at least one advertisement for the newest dieting craze. We’re inundated with commercials about this dieting fad or that “guaranteed to work or your money back” program, but what these programs neglect to inform you is that, when it all comes down to it, dieting is all about consuming the right calories in a healthy and balanced way.
I’m not a professional nutritionist nor am I a doctor, so I will never deride or attempt to discredit any popular dieting program. However, I have lost nearly 100 pounds in the past two years and did so without the help of any dieting program. I was able to do this by focusing on consuming vitamin and nutrient dense foods, especially foods rich in Vitamins A-K along with Zinc.
A healthy, nutrient rich diet can play an extremely important role in developing a healthy and robust immune system. And while multivitamins are widely considered to be safe, numerous peer-reviewed studies by premier medical and scientific institutions have called into question their efficacy and conclude that “multivitamins don’t reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline (such as memory loss and slowed-down thinking) or an early death.” In other words, vitamins are safe to consume, but nothing beats getting your vitamins and other important nutrients from a healthy and balanced diet.
Physical activity is immensely important in your path towards a healthier immune system. If you haven’t exercised for a long time then listen to your body and don’t overextend yourself, especially in the beginning. The last thing you want to do is get an injury that forces you to take a hiatus from exercising to recover.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership or the newest home exercise equipment to get the required exercise you need for a healthier immune system. Gyms and personal exercise equipment are certainly great things, but my point is that you can get 100% of the recommended aerobic and resistance exercises without spending a penny.
Guidelines issued by the Federal government recommend able bodied individuals get “150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, and 2 sessions per week of muscle strength training.” That may sound like a lot, but you can achieve that by taking a brisk 30-60 minute walk each day along with 2-3 days of resistance training (no equipment needed!) can go a long way towards helping you achieve a healthy immune system.
Please note that it’s important to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen.
Getting enough quality sleep and focusing on reducing stress in your life are just as important as diet and exercise in your journey towards a healthy immune system. Research has shown that 1 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep, which can suppress the immune system, among other things.
One of the best ways to develop healthy sleeping habits is to go to bed around the same time every night, avoid screens - especially phones and tablets - an hour or more before bedtime, limit your caffeine intake, only drink alcohol in moderation, and to get enough exercise.
Healthy sleeping habits are but one type of rest, however. People who practice mindfulness and meditation have been shown to have healthier immune systems when compared to people who do not practice mindfulness techniques. And if you are a novice, you’ll be happy to know that anyone can do mindfulness exercises, which can be as simple as sitting in a quiet room with no distractions for 5-10 minutes a day.
Quality sleep, mindfulness, and focusing on decreasing stress can go a long way towards boosting your immune system.
Diet, exercise, rest, repeat.
Your journey to a healthier immune system will not happen overnight, but it will happen if you commit to it. Take me as a living, breathing example of what can be done when you put your mind to something. Two years ago I was obese and had convinced myself that was how I was going to be forever, but a health scare (since resolved) spooked me into changing my lifestyle. I determined to embrace a healthy lifestyle, ate healthy, exercised religiously, and focused on rest and daily stress and lost just under 100 pounds in eleven months. It didn’t happen overnight, but in retrospect the time flew by.
I fully understand that each and every person is their own individual who has unique circumstances affecting their personal journey, but one thing is irrefutable - diet, exercise, and rest can go a long way towards building a healthy and vibrant immune system.