Move your body: The immunity and health boosting power of exercise

Cheer for life

It’s fall, and that means one thing: Football! Ok it also means apple picking and pumpkins and pumpkin spice lattes for the basics. But it always reminds me of my cheerleading days, and lately all sorts of throwbacks have been popping up on Facebook, so I’m getting extra reminders of my cheer career!
This year more than ever, I’m also reminded of what good physical shape it kept me in: I had to be on my feet for eight hours at a time on game days, cheering and tumbling and stunting and jumping up and down when we couldn’t contain our excitement when Matty Ice made a game-winning play yet again. I had to be on point. And of course we had our practices and workouts in between. Back then, cheer was my exercise.
boston college cheerleading split pyramid

BC Cheer – Go Eagles!

My Life in Exercise

And before that, high school sports and gymnastics kept me super active. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been involved in some kind of intense physical activity, running and jumping and leaping and in my case tumbling and flipping upside down.
Yoga and running became my go-tos as an adult, but I’ll be honest, sometimes I really get the urge to just bounce and jump up and down like I used to in my cheer days…. because it was so much fun! And it turns out, all that jumping in particular was super healthy.
Cheer stunting at a BC basketball game

Cheer stunting at a BC basketball game!

Get up, stand up, and move your booty!

It’s not exactly news that exercise is good for you. But it bears repeating time and again: moving your body is a fundamental foundation of health. Our bodies were made to move! Honestly, you don’t even need to think of it as exercise; you just need to move.
We were not made to stagnate, but today most of us live very sedentary lives: we sit at our desks all day, come home and sit in front of the tv, sit in the car on the way to work or to run errands, and then go to bed. Heck, even when we do get our butts to the gym, many of us try to find the closest parking spot to the entrance.
I make a point to get up at certain points in the day and just walk around, go outside when the weather is nice, or even just stand up and shake my booty for a bit! (I’m lucky that there’s nobody around to watch…) But sometimes I miss that trampoline we had in my backyard growing up, and now my body actually craves bouncing, and here’s why.

Jump for Joy – and for Exercise

It turns out, rebounding – bouncing or jumping on a trampoline – is one of the healthiest exercises for the body because it gets the lymph moving. In fact, it is the absolute best way to move the lymphatic system. So it is basically the best exercise to keep the immune system healthy.
Unlike the circulatory system that utilizes the heart to pump oxygenated blood throughout our body, there is no pump to move the lymph, which is responsible for filtering and ferrying out metabolic waste. So, we need to move our body and breathe deeply to get that lymph moving. Any physical movement will do the trick, but bouncing gets it going most effectively. I guess my body knows what it needs!

Exercise, Immunity, and Health

Exercise signals your body and your cells to live. It boosts T-Cell production and improves immune function. It also increases the oxygenation of your tissues (remember, oxygen is the source of life and healthy body function), improves the function of antioxidant enzymes, and triggers the release of endorphins that make you feel good.
Furthermore, increased circulation speeds up the healing process. It also prevents the loss of muscle tissue and bone mass; it’s the best way to prevent osteoporosis. As they say, use it or lose it – stay physically active and you won’t lose it! Adding some weight lifting will ensure you keep your strength up.
Exercise improves overall health in a number of ways:
  • it helps control weight
  • it boosts your energy
  • it boosts your mood
  • it promotes better sleep
  • it boosts libido
  • it can be a way to get some fun and enjoyment back into your life
  • it combats health conditions and diseases
    • it’s a heart-health powerhouse: it boosts HDL (the ‘good’ kind) and lowers unhealthy triglycerides
    • it also prevents and manages stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, depression, and a number of forms of cancer
yoga in central park, new york city

Yoga in Central Park, New York City

Exercise and Cancer Prevention

A Finnish study done on twins found that exercise reduced mortality by 66% on the twins that exercised compared to the identical twin that didn’t. Same genes, different lifestyle choices, different outcomes. Twin studies are the golden standard when attempting to suss out the biology vs environment (lifestyle) factors. This study shows that mortality wasn’t really about genes at all – it was all about those lifestyle choices.
Exercise effectively switches on cancer fighting and cancer protective genes and switches off cancer promoting genes. Even if certain genes predispose you to a particular disease or condition, lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise impact whether or not these genes are actually turned on or off. Biology is not destiny.
Another study found greater survival rates in breast cancer survivors who were physically active and consumed large quantities of fruits and vegetables. Just 30 minutes of walking per day and consumption of at least 5 servings of fruits one veggies resulted in a 50% reduced risk of recurrence after 9 years.
Study after study has found decreased risk of recurrence and increased survival rates in at least 13 different forms of cancer to date.
yoga in Krka national park Croatia

Hiking – and yoga! – through Krka national park in Croatia

Optimize your Exercise

You just need to move more. It doesn’t matter how, just move. People who move their bodies regularly experience better health.
Experts now believe that sitting is the new smoking: one study found that those who watch 5 hours of tv per day are 22% more likely to die than those who watched less than 2! All it takes is a little reminder on your phone to get up and take a little stretch and walk break, and standing or adjustable desks are a good alternative to sitting all day at your desk.
And it needs to be a regular part of your day: movement throughout the day is more beneficial than one concentrated sweat session at the gym. Which is especially helpful for those that find it difficult to carve out time from their day to go to the gym – it doesn’t need to be in one big block of time.
Daily habits that keep us in motion as well as walking and light running will get the job done. Take the stairs, park a bit further away in the parking lot, take a few extra laps when you go grab that coffee or take a bathroom break, or add some lunges and squats as you do chores around the house.

Move, breathe sweat!

You do need deliberate, moderate aerobic exercise 6 days a week. This can be anything, like walking, bike riding, yoga, salsa dancing, or crossfit.  Find something you enjoy and do it (almost) every day.
But exercise caution when it comes to exercise: extreme exercise = excessive catabolic stress, which results in suppressed immunity for up to 72 hours after your workout. This is especially counter-productive for anyone trying to heal from a condition.
Don’t go crazy! Just be consistent.
Bottom Line: Experiencing optimal health is largely just a matter of creating and sustaining healthy habits!

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