As we explore the benefits of embedding movement in our daily routines this month, we will dive a little deeper into our series on ways to maximize immune functioning and be well!
The immune system is complex and we are constantly learning more about how it works and what we can do to support immune functioning. We know that the immune system is at its strongest when we stay hydrated and eat foods that promote health. Solid sleep habits and managing stress through self-care are also great ways to support your immune system. And Healthline offers useful information for those who are curious about the effects of alcohol and smoking on the body’s ability to fight illness.
Now, let’s get moving on movement!
As we’ve seen in previous posts, the immune system makes special cells that find and fight off possible threats. A fluid called lymph carries these special cells throughout the body. The kicker is that there is no pump to move the lymph and make sure it reaches every nook and cranny (in the way that the heart pumps blood). Instead, lymph is squeezed through a series of lymphatic vessels from all parts of the body toward the neck. And it is the muscles, through all of our daily movements, that keep the lymph flowing and doing its job. So, you can probably guess that more movement leads to more immune activity!
What does the science say?
Recent research has looked at the relationship between exercise and the immune system and the body’s response to illness. Studies show that immune cell counts are higher immediately after a person exercises and that regular, moderate activity is known to decrease a person’s chances of catching the common cold as well as their recovery time if they do get sick. There is also compelling evidence that exercise and sleep play a role in the body’s response to vaccines, speeding up the development of antibodies.
Children and movement
Children, especially, need movement to thrive. Exercise and movement are essential for their physical and mental well-being, as well as for development and learning. In terms of the immune system, being active for just 6 minutes causes a significant jump in children’s immune cell levels! Whenever possible, send your children outdoors to play. Not only will they be able to move around freely, but they will also come into contact with harmless microbes that will help maintain their immune systems. Outdoor play can also decrease stress levels, which, again, plays a role in immune functioning.
Perhaps not surprisingly, teachers and others who work closely with many children tend to have stronger immune systems and report getting sick less often. Nevertheless, the same recommendations apply to teachers, as to the children and the people who love them!
Check out our other posts for more ideas about how to use movement, among other things, to support resilience in times of COVID-19 and ways to work movement into daily routines. And be sure to share your experiences with us. We love to learn from you.
Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2021
Image: © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com