by Antonio Sini

A little over two years ago, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Today I am Lyme-free and exercising regularly, but it’s only now that I realize how constantly fatigued my body was when I had the disease. Especially my immune system! If I caught a simple cold, for example, it would linger for weeks. The bacteria had left my immunity severely compromised. Through regular exercise and rest (and one mega dose of antibiotics), I was able to get my immune system back on track.

When you exercise regularly, there are a number of things that happen to your body. Your heart gets stronger and is able to pump more blood. Your lungs get better equipped at handling oxygen and delivering it to the rest of your body. Your muscles also get stronger as you use them more often. And your immune system gets a boost as a result of all this. Cells that promote immunity circulate through your system more rapidly, and they’re capable of killing both viruses and bacteria. These cells appear to work slower in people who don’t exercise, leaving them less equipped to fight bacteria and more susceptible to becoming sick.

Exercise also slows the release of stress-related hormones, and stress is shown to increase the likelihood of illness. Dr. David Nieman, an exercise immunologist at Appalachian State University, is one of the country’s most respected authorities in this area. It’s no surprise that one of his studies showed that people who walked at 70 to 75 percent of their VO2max for 40 minutes per day reported half as many sick days because of colds or sore throats compared to people who didn’t exercise. That’s a big difference.

As we enter the Fall and Winter months, it’s important to keep a regular exercise routine to stay healthy. Follow these simple tips to stay energetic, healthy and happy:

  • Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes a day, 3-6 days a week.
  • Eat unprocessed, fresh and organic foods.
  • Keep vitamin and mineral stores at optimal levels by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables (organic, of course).
  • Sleep a minimum of 7 hours per night to avoid fatigue. 
  • Don’t overtrain and keep life stresses to a minimum.
  • Keep yourself hydrated daily.