We all know exercise is good for our bodies and well-being. Most of us exercise to maintain healthy weights, develop some muscles, tighten those abs, even to reduce stress. But there’s more to that.
By the age of 40, physical strength, endurance, flexibility and balance begin to decline. Our bodies’s ability to fight infection tends to decline as we get older, but studies show that older people who get six hours of moderate exercise a week have an immune system response similar to that of someone in theirs 20s.
Studies also suggest that exercising, even as simple as brisk 30-45 minute walk a few times a week, will increase the circulation of natural killer cells that can fight off viruses and bacteria, thus boosting the body’s immune system. Here’s a few of old age associated diseases that we can avoid by exercising:
Exercising can help protect the body against cancer cells. We all know how exercise can lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol, and cut the incidence of Type 2 diabetes but recent scientific studies also suggest that exercised-induced molecular changes in the body’s immune system may protect against some forms of cancer, though the effect of exercise on cancer cells is still a subject of many studies. Harvard Medical School’s consumer website notes that more than 60 studies done in the recent years suggest that women who exercise regularly can expect a 20% to 30% lower risk in developing breast cancer compared with women who didn’t exercise.
Exercise could also slow prostate cancer. Another study from the same university found that men over 65 doing at least three hours of running, cycling, swimming and other exercises have a 70 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with advanced or fatal prostate cancer.
Exercise can guard against Parkinson’s disease. A Harvard university analysis of 48,000 men found out that the most active were 50% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than the least active. Those who has been vigorously active as young men lowered their risk by about 60%.
During exercise, two types of immune cells circulate more freely in the blood, neutralizing pathogens. Normally, the immune system returns to normal within three hours, but the effect of the exercise on the immune system is cumulative. It adds up over time to reduce illness rates.
If you haven’t been that active, don’t worry too much that you’re not getting a lot exercise, and don’t force yourself at one go. High intensity training over long periods can actually be a bad, such exertion can induce the release of stress hormones in the body that may damp some functions of the immune system temporarily, which can increase susceptibility to infection for short periods.