A recent study conducted on 125 cyclists who were around 80 years old, revealed that their immune system was good enough to match that of a 20 year old. Regular exercise, it was concluded, was the reason for their strong immunity.

It has been observed that from the age of 20, our immune system begins to decline by about 2-3% each year.  As a result, you are more susceptible to infections and health conditions such as arthritis as we grow older.

How does exercising help immunity in old age?

A physically active lifestyle can improve health from a cellular level. The studies conducted on seniors who opted for a healthy lifestyle revealed that several bodily functions are responsible for keeping the immune system healthy even as you age. Here are some ways in which exercise prevents decline of the immune system with age:

  • More muscle mass: With seniors who exercise, muscle loss is certainly lesser in comparison to those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle. The quality and the volume of muscles is also found to be higher in these individuals. Muscles release a hormone called irisin which is known to boost the immune system on the whole. In addition to that, having a higher muscle mass also boosts the metabolism of the body. Consequently, the absorption of nutrients from the diet that you consume is better, thus strengthening the immune system.
  • Exercise and the T-cells: The study conducted on the cyclists revealed that the level of T-cells in the seniors who exercise is equal to that of a 20 year old. T-cells produced by the Thymus are responsible for detecting any threat or pathogen and triggering immune response. However, with age, these cells shrink in size and also reduce in number. Exercising regularly, the study revealed, helped in the production of these T-cells and improve the body’s immunity against infections and diseases.
  • Toxins are flushed out more effectively: With exercise, the metabolic rate of the body increases, too. This means that you are able to flush out more toxins from the body. The respiratory system, which is also responsible for removing specific microbes and toxins from the body also performs better with regular exercise. As a result, the body is able to cleanse itself better and stay clear of any infections or diseases related to free radicals. The absence of free radicals also boosts the immune system and keeps the white blood cells, the soldiers of the body, healthier.
  • Fewer stress hormones: Exercise reduces to production of stress hormones and improves the production of endorphins or happy hormones. These endorphins improve the overall functioning of the body. However, they have a bigger impact on the immune system, allowing the body to produce healthier white blood cells. As a result, you are able to fight infections better. The quality of these cells are retained even with age when the level of stress hormones are lower in your body.
  • Healthy mind, healthy body: When you perform any physical activity or practice mediation or other relaxation techniques, certain areas in the brain become more active. Studies show that the areas of the brain that are charged when you exercise are responsible for the production of several antibodies when you are exposed to any pathogen or disease-causing germs. The more you exercise, the better is the response to any potential threats.

Exercise tips for elders

If you have been exercising all your life, then it simply becomes a part of your lifestyle. However, it is never too late for anyone to start. Here are some simple tips for seniors to make the most of exercising while staying safe:

  • Choose an exercise routine that includes about 30minutes of workout, thrice a week. Increase this as you feel stronger.
  • Combine strength training with cardio vascular training. One of the best ways to build a stronger immune system is to improve muscle quality with resistance training. With controlled cardiovascular training, blood circulation improves, reversing several effects of old age.
  • Make sure you eat right while exercising. Getting the right balance of nutrients is extremely necessary for you to benefit from exercise.

If you are just starting out, it is advised that you consult your physician before you choose a particular routine. That way, you can be certain that it is safe for you to practice.

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A specialist in Clinical Nutrition, Weight Management, and Child Nutrition, Ms. Agarwal has been working actively with patients seeking guidance related to lifestyle-specific disorders such as Diabetes, PCOD, and Thyroid.

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