Oh, how I want a solid answer to that question. Actually, don’t we all? I’m certain we are more cognizant of our immune system these days and deeply want to know how we can make it stronger.
Before I venture any further, please understand I am not a doctor. I’m not a health expert. I’m simply a guy who walks a lot and knows how to use Google. What follows are what I’ve learned about my own immune system and one anecdotal story from personal experience.
If this motivates you to talk with your health care provider, that will be the best outcome.
I wanted to find an easy and direct answer to my question. In other words, I wanted to see something like, if I walk 30 minutes every day at 3mph, my immune system will be 30% stronger. Wouldn’t an answer like that be nice?
Instead, I learned that there’s still a lot about the human immune system the experts don’t fully understand. We are encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle which includes:
- Proper Nutrition
- No smoking
- Minimal stress
- Alcohol in moderation or not at all
Bottom line, my daily walk is a good thing for my immune system, but there are no guarantees. And, doesn’t life experience bear this out. We probably all know people who do “everything” right and still get sick and people who do “everything” wrong and never get sick.
Gratefully, I have enjoyed good health so far. I rarely get stomach viruses. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had one of these awful stomach bugs since I was a teenager. And, I’d still have some unused fingers when I finish counting. Other than two basal cell skin cancers that had to be removed, I’ve also avoided any serious disease or illness.
Is this because of a strong immune system, healthy choices, or good genes? I don’t know and it would be foolish of me to draw any kind of solid conclusion. I suspect even my doctor would offer vague answers. I know because I’ve asked.
But, the common cold is a different beast for me. Most of my life I’ve had two or three colds every year. And, they’re not fun. They’re also a professional hazard since most of my adult life has been spent talking on the radio.
Most of us can power through a cold, including me. But, listening to someone on the radio who sounds sick is not an enjoyable experience. I’ve actually been told to stay off the air until I sounded better.
Of course, COVID has mostly changed the “power through” mentality to simply stay home till your better. But, colds still suck!
Two years ago (before COVID hit) I decided enough with all these colds. I wanted to figure out how to boost my immune system. While I already had fitness momentum, I was hopeful I could do a little more and exercise my way out of the common cold.
I did some “research” and was disappointed to discover there wasn’t a simple “fitness formula” to a stronger immune system. That’s also when it occurred to me that Ava, my wife, NEVER gets colds. That got me thinking, “What is she doing different than me?” Obviously, I was still looking for an immune system boosting formula.
Ava and I are both active and prioritize fitness. Her nutrition is a little better than mine, but not enough that my nutrition was the glaring weakness. Neither of us deals with high stress, so that wasn’t the differentiator.
And, then I thought about her sleep and mine. Big difference! She routinely is in bed 8-9 hours. For me, it was barely six because I had to wake up at 3a to do morning radio.
And, so at the beginning of 2020 I committed to being in bed for eight hours allowing my body to get the sleep it really needed. It’s a routine I’ve mostly stuck with since then. And, guess what?
I haven’t had a cold in more than two years.
Did more sleep strengthen my immune system? I’m not a medical expert so I can’t draw a straight line between the two, but I certainly upped my healthy choices by getting more sleep. That’s certainly not a bad thing.
It’s also possible I haven’t had any colds because I wasn’t around as many people due to COVID restrictions. I’ve also become more disciplined about washing my hands and not touching my face. Or, it could be none of that.
Bottom line, the experts highly recommend making healthy lifestyle choices to give our immune system the best chance do its job. Sleep is a part of that…so is physical activity.
If you’re looking to up your fitness game and make it a regular part of life, you could make worse choices than a daily fitness walk. To help you maintain that commitment check out the new Walking Is Fitness podcast.
Every day you’re invited to join me for the first ten minutes of my daily walk. Together, we can help each other keep our commitment to fitness.
You can check out the latest episodes HERE or simply follow or subscribe where you get your favorite podcasts.