MagazineTo Your Health

Jump–Start Your Immunity

Everyday habits can either protect or weaken your immune system. Poor immunity can lead to chronic allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.

  • Smoking and alcohol abuse are obvious enemies of your immune system. Researchers have also found we weaken our defenses against germs, viruses, and serious illness through many other lifestyle habits.
  • Poor sleep: It raises your stress hormone levels and inflammation. In general, daily sound sleep (7 to 9 hours) protects your health.
  • Poor diet: Not eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds robs you of essential nutrients (including beta carotene as well as vitamins C and E) that strengthen immunity. Kick the junk food and eat well.
  • Excess sugar: Eating or drinking too much sugar reduces the immune system’s ability to fight bacteria, an effect that can last for hours. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit and drink water instead.
  • Chronic stress: It triggers a steady stream of stress hormones that suppress immunity and lead to disease.
  • Negative attitude: Have you lost your sense of humor? Practice laughing more; it pushes back stress hormones and raises white blood cells that can curb infection. The takeaway: Take care of yourself.
  • Loneliness: Having a network of good, close friends can boost immunity by easing stress and elevating your mood.

Exercise and the mind

Exercise does more than boost physical fitness: It affects how you think and feel mentally. Researchers have documented how exercise impacts your brain and emotions. In fact, just 5 minutes of moderate–intensity exercise (brisk walking) can enhance mood, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

That’s because even brisk walking releases endorphins, natural chemicals produced by the nervous system which trigger a calming and feel–good effect that can help relieve depression. Exercise can also help treat and prevent anxiety and panic attacks by soothing an over–reactive nervous system, the APA notes.

Regular exercise may boost memory, too, according to University of Texas research. What’s more, studies show regular aerobic workouts, over time, can improve your brain’s executive function, which is home to skills needed to plan, solve problems, and make decisions.

So, consider taking a walk instead of a coffee break, especially if you have a sedentary job, to lower stress levels, brighten your mood and increase your ability to focus and work well.

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