What is the Immune system?
The immune system is your body’s number one defence mechanism and protects you from various types of disease-causing bacteria and viruses. It is a complex fighting system which uses your circulation and lymphatic system to transport elements around your body. Your immune system and your health are directly related. The stronger your immune system is, the more protection you will have against colds, viruses and other illnesses.
A weak immune system can cause;
- More frequent colds and infections
- Slower wound healing
- Anaemia (low iron levels in your bloodstream)
- Fatigue and lethargy
White blood cells are activated when your immune system is weakened. There are two types of white blood cells: Phagocytes and lymphocytes. Phagocytes move through your body getting rid of foreign organisms (pathogens). Lymphocytes get information from the Phagocytes to help it develop the right antibodies to fight the pathogen effectively. In this way, they work as a team.
Various factors can make your immune system weaker and make you more susceptible to disease. You may be surprised to learn that many common daily habits can harm your immune system! Being sedentary is one of the main habits that can impact your immune system especially as you age.
Given the current times we are living in, it is important to understand what immunity is and how you can improve it. The good news is that there are a few simple things we can do to help improve your immune system. These include your diet, sleep and exercise.
Immunity and exercise
The term ‘physical activity’ (walking or doing housework) should not be confused with exercise. Exercise is defined by being planned, structured and repetitive in nature to maintain or improve certain aspects of physical fitness.
There is a myth that exercise can reduce your immune function but much of the research today suggests the opposite. The reduction in immune function is only relevant in prolonged vigorous exercise in endurance athletes.
Much of the research data on exercise and disease shows that regular structured exercise can reduce the risk of contractable diseases such as viruses and bacterial infections. It also has a significant effect on chronic diseases in older age including cancer and inflammatory conditions. This research also suggests that from 1-2 hours following exercise our immune function is indeed heightened and over time frequent daily exercise enhances rather than suppresses your immune system.
Pilates is a popular form of daily exercise to both to improve fitness and restore health for people of all ages. Pilates is a non-impact and safe form of exercise which uses your body as a whole.
It may also improve circulation and lymphatic drainage due to the muscle pump action and gravity assistance. When the calf muscles work, they help to pump fluid back up to the heart through both the blood vessels and lymphatic system. With common Pilates exercise such as single-leg stretch you are doing this with the leg up above the heart so gravity will also assist in this process which in turn will assist the function of the immune system.
How much, how often and how long?
In Pilates, like with other forms of exercise it is recommended to perform at least three 30-minute sessions per week to see or feel the benefit, classes are usually an hour which is even better! To quote Joseph Pilates “in 10 sessions you will feel better, in 20 you will look better and in 30 you will have a whole new body”. If you are doing 2-3 then results may take longer to achieve compared to doing something every day.
- Making Pilates part of your daily routine will not only improve your health and movement but will boost your immune system.
- The beauty of this type of exercise is it can be performed anywhere, Online, in a chair, standing and lying down And at any time, at work or in the Pilates clinic.
- All you need is a small space big enough to stretch out head to toes. Ideally a Pilates mat or a clean floor! Cushions and tins are also great props!