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Why seniors should exercise to boost the immune system

Regular physical activity can strengthen an elder adult’s immune system and help the body fight off infections and viruses. 1, 2

Research suggests that exercise is beneficial to the immune system by flushing out bacteria out of the lungs and airways thereby reducing the chance of getting cold, flu, and other illnesses.2

It causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before.2

The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better.2

Moreover, exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness.2

Aiming for at least 30 minutes of physical activity 3 days a week not only boosts the immune system but as well increases blood circulation which has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.1

The World Health Organization recommends including both aerobic and strength exercise as well as balance exercises to reduce the risk of falls. If older adults cannot follow the guidelines because of chronic conditions, they should be as active as their ability and conditions allow. It is important to note that the recommended amount of physical activity is in addition to routine activities of daily living like self-care, cooking, and shopping, to mention a few.3

Exercise should go hand in hand with healthy eating habits. It is important for seniors to keep a well-balanced diet, as good eating habits can strengthen the immune system and improve their ability to recover from illness as well as help prevent chronic disease.3

Regardless of your age, maintaining a balanced diet can still be a challenge. One way to help you along: include nutritional supplements in your diet, to help meet the recommended intake levels. These products can help make up for the nutrients you might lack in your daily meals.3