How to Strengthen Your Immune System: Part 2

Yesterday, we learned how certain foods and changes to our diet can help boost our immune system, which is especially important during this pandemic. While the immune system generally does a great job of protecting the body from germs through its own processes and systems in place, we can work towards strengthening overall health, and in turn immune strength, by incorporating daily healthy lifestyle and eating habits. Below, we will discuss some of these healthy lifestyle habits that you can include in your day-to-day.

Enjoyable Movement

Engage in safe physical activity to support immune function. Some activity is better than none! Move your body throughout the day and have fun.

According to the American Cancer Society 2020 Guidelines on Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, adults should aim for:

  • 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise (such as 30-60 minutes, 5 days per week), or
  • 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, and include muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days per week.

An example of moderate-intensity activity is brisk walking, and an example of vigorous intensity activity is running. It’s important to gradually and safely work towards reaching your physical activity goals. For example, if you are currently not very active – start with a walking goal of 10 minutes two or three days per week, and gradually increase by a few more minutes each week.

There are many fantastic health benefits of physical activity, including reduced anxiety, blood pressure, improved sleep quality, reduced risk of chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, and an overall improved quality of life.

Always check with your doctor before beginning a new physical activity regimen.

Prioritize Sleep

Prioritize sleep to support immune function through the production of cytokines, which help to fight infection. Skimping on sleep results in fewer cytokines to help ward off catching that winter cold.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Create a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine and stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time seven days per week. Keep in mind that alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco use disrupt the quality and quantity of your sleep.

Everyday Self-Care

Cortisol, a hormone released during stress, can impact immune function when in chronic overdrive. Incorporate self-care into your daily routine as one tool for managing stress. Add nourishing foods, home-cooked meals, meals shared with friends and family, and enjoyable movement to promote both self-care and overall health. For more tips on how to practice self-care and stress management, ask to speak to a Social Worker.

Bottom Line

  • Sleep 7-9 hours per night
  • Engage in fun, safe physical activity
  • Incorporate daily self-care practices

Caroline Meehan is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center with five years of experience in cancer care and medical nutrition therapy. Caroline enjoys writing, reading, and talking all things nutrition and health, whether it be debunking the latest diet fad or discussing the latest in nutrition science research. In her free time, Caroline is typically cooking or baking, and spending time outside, exploring Philadelphia and beyond. 

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