It’s a bit of a frightening time at the moment with the worldwide Coronavirus scare causing panic, and we wanted to share with you some of our thoughts on the role of exercise and nutrition in keeping you healthy and strengthening your immune system.
A healthy immune system can defeat pathogens and protect you against illness, and is affected by diet, exercise, age and psychological stress, among other things. A good starting point is to protect yourself from environmental factors (don’t smoke, avoid excess alcohol, wash your hands thoroughly and cook meat properly) and adopt healthy living strategies, some of which we have detailed below.
Maintain a Balanced Diet!
Vitamin C, is important for immune function, bone structure, iron absorbtion and healthy skin. We mostly find it in citrus fruits, strawberries, green vegetables and tomatoes, and taking slightly elevated doses of vitamin C does appear to reduce the duration of cold symptoms, although there is no need for the mega-doses of vitamin C that some are currently advising.
Deficiencies of zinc, copper, iron, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C and E can alter the immune response, and are again better absorbed through the diet rather than supplementation (although if you don’t eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables it may be advisable to take a good quality multivitamin). Eat a wide range of whole foods, and lots of colourful fruit and veg to ensure you are getting enough micronutrients!
Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight and protects against a variety of diseases and helps contribute to a healthy immune system. It contributes even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Don’t Get Stressed!
Emotional stress and immune function do appear to be linked, although it’s difficult to define because stress is subjective and varies from one person to the next. If you feel stressed and particularly if that is in turn affecting your sleep, your immune system could be compromised. Exercise – and we can’t stress this enough – helps enormously in combating stress and aiding healthy sleep.
So as well as eating a healthy, balanced diet, it’s vital that we all keep moving and exercising. As tempting as it may be to stay at home, try to get out for a walk, get to your fitness class or visit the gym because it will help combat stress, improve sleep and keep your immune system fighting fit!
Noel and Meredith