6 rules for boosting your immunity

Immune systems are the heroes of our bodies, so looking after and boosting the immune system is so important for our overall health and wellbeing. With a complex network of proteins and cells located throughout the body, these systems fight off infection — even remembering past infections in order to better fight them again in future.

Physical activity is one essential way to keep an immune system strong, whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the lift or committing to regular gym sessions. This is just as true for young adults as it is for those approaching retirement.

Unfortunately, those of us in our later years may notice that it takes a little longer for the body to recover from an illness and injury, according to Chanél Pienaar, Healthy Lifestyles Manager at Sports Otago and Green Prescription contact for the Otago region.

“A healthy, strong body fights off infection and disease more easily and more quickly. Rather than sapping energy reserves entirely, recovery from an illness will take less of a toll on the body if the person is physically active regularly,” she says. 

Chanél explains that a variety of medical conditions can be improved simply by moving more each day. This includes heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

Whether you have already retired or are looking ahead, here are a few handy ways you can protect and boost your immune system in the years to come.

1. Get a good night’s sleep every night

High quality sleep is key for a healthy immune system. When you’re sleep deprived, it may inhibit your immune system’s ability to deal with infections, yet when you’re fully rested, your body is better equipped to deal with bugs and disease.

Many of us find it harder to sleep as we get older, but rather than accepting this outright, you can try different approaches to improve your nightly rest. Consider relaxing activities before bed such as meditation or reading, don’t consume caffeine after midday, and ensure your bed and pillows are supportive and comfortable.

2. Join a fitness group or find an exercise partner

Even the most dedicated gym junkies can have a hard time exercising sometimes, which is why being part of a group or having a buddy can give you the extra push you need to do some form of physical activity each day.

Rather than relying on your own will power to exercise each day, the idea is to have someone to hold you accountable. Simply knowing that your yoga group would notice your absence might be enough to encourage you to pull on your sneakers, and having a buddy who lives nearby to drag you outside for a brisk walk can make all the difference.

3. Sign up for yoga

Yoga is about flexibility and strength, so even though many of the exercises can leave you with satisfyingly achy muscles the next day, no one will ask you to drop and do 20 burpees. Unsurprisingly, yoga has become incredibly popular amongst all age groups, but it’s slower pace and gentle movements are especially beneficial for those who might have troublesome knees or stiff hips.

There are different types of yoga, such as Ashtanga yoga for those looking for more of a physical challenge, and Chair Yin yoga for those with limited mobility. No matter your level or fitness, yoga offers a welcoming exercise that’s great for your immunity and will likely introduce you to new people as well.

4. Opt for colour in your diet

A colourful diet is one that includes a rainbow of natural colours, from the bright reds of tomatoes to the deep purples of blueberries and the rich greens of broccoli.

It can be hard to keep track of exactly which vitamins and essentials you need each day, but if you make a habit of choosing more colour more often, you’ll at least start with a solid nutritional foundation to fuel your body and boost your immune system with a wide variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals.

5. Start carrying a water bottle with you

As we age, our sense of thirst decreases, which makes it harder to remember to drink water and other hydrating fluids. This makes it easier to become dehydrated, which is unhelpful for the immune system.

Adequate hydration helps your body to get rid of waste but absorb important nutrients, which means that not drinking enough water can keep your immune system from functioning at its best.

Get into the habit of drinking a glass of water with each meal, and carry a water bottle during the day to remind you to sip regularly.

6. Follow the three laws of great physical activity

Our government recommends older citizens to follow a balanced regimen of physical activities at least five days a week. Ideally, you should incorporate exercises that involve Huff & Puff, Push & Pull, and Balance.

Huff & Puff is any aerobic and endurance exercise, such as swimming, cycling, walking, and aqua jogging. Anything that raises the heart rate and your breathing counts, and you can spread it out throughout the day if it’s too much to do a 30-minute workout in one go.

Push & Pull is any strength and resistance training. This can be as simple as using canned goods as weights, or holding a plank on the floor at home.

Balance is all about stretching and flexibility. Basic daily stretching will increase blood flow and is a great place to start. You can also look at activities such as pilates, tai chi, and of course, yoga.

Anything you can do to improve your immunity will help let you take control of your health and give you peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can.