Those that know me know very well that winter and I, well let’s just say… we don’t get along! The cold mornings, the cold evenings, the extra clothing! Who needs all that?! My birthday is in winter. I could never do pool parties. Never go to the beach and yes, I’m still bitter about that! I hold a grudge against winter. “But there’s the snow and it’s sooo beautiful in winter.” Pfft! Give me the beach any day!
Now, you’d be forgiven if in reading this you were to think that Jack Frost gets the better of me every year. That he beats me down into a bloody pulp of sickness and demotivation through June, July and August. But alas, you’d be wrong! You see, there are two measures that I take to ensure that I don’t succumb to his evil ways. I be sure to boost my immunity through nutrition and supplementation, and I exercise regularly. Not just during those dreaded three months, but well in advance. And honestly, they go hand in hand. If my immune system is down, my chances of getting sick increase, which therefore may affect my regular training. Conversely, if my training is lacking, my immune system can suffer. Exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. THIS IS the simplest way to beat the winter blues without having to take a trip to a tropical climate to escape the cold.
For your immune system, nutrition is key. Yes you can do cold therapy and the like to boost immunity, but the simplest thing you can action right now is your diet. Be sure to include plenty of fresh, preferably organic, fruit and vegetables at every meal. And get creative with colours. Every coloured fruit and veg have different properties and varying immune boosting antioxidants. Make one week red, one week purple, one week yellow etc. Or include something from all colours at once. Next time you’re loading up your trolley, grab yourself some kiwi fruit, blueberries, broccoli, papaya, oranges, grapefruit, red capsicum, garlic, ginger, green tea, spinach, almonds and turmeric. Including some of these will go a long way to keeping your immune system and overall health in top condition.
When it comes to exercise, intense, PROLONGED workouts suppress the body’s immune response for a period of time right after you finish exercising. And the longer and more intense your routine, the longer your immune system is down. And that means you’ll get sick more often. The reason for this is simple: your body interprets long periods of exercise as stress.
This raises the levels of norepinephrine and cortisol. These stress hormones tend to suppress the immune system. They cause the numbers of immune cells (including white blood cells) to drop during and after the workout.
Strength training is number one! Strength training boosts your immune system as it is pumping blood throughout the body, relieving stress and releasing endorphins. The body often gets sick under times of stress but working out and lifting will help ease that stress. More recent research shows that resistance training transiently increases the number of circulating immune cells that help protect the body against infection. These cells are part of the body’s innate immune system and include certain types of white blood cells and natural killer cells. This isn’t surprising since some of these cells, like monocytes & neutrophils, help to repair damaged muscle tissue after a strength workout.
The take home is that a combination of well structured, consistent strength training, along with the inclusion of some of the above mentioned foods, will go a long way to keeping your immune system in prime condition, therefore, allowing you to maintain regular exercise habits. And not just during winter, but year round is your best bet!