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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Heitzmann, MSPT,


Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. If we have learned anything in the past months, it’s exactly that. The entire world has had to make drastic lifestyle changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a society that is so control oriented, we have been faced with a very out of control situation, AKA The Corona virus Pandemic.

My personal takeaway: What piece of this situation can I control, and how can I better prepare and protect myself and my family for the next unknown?? It’s clear that we cannot guarantee lack of exposure, and we cannot guarantee that a new virus will not surface in the future. What we CAN do is focus on what we CAN control to protect ourselves from future outbreaks. The good news is that we have this amazing thing called the immune system, which is designed specifically to help us fight off illness. By strengthening our immune system, we will better be able to handle these unknowns.

Early studies are rapidly revealing that a strong immune system, fewer comorbidities,

and a healthy lifestyle all contribute to a reduced impact of COVID-19 on health.

So how do we build and maintain a strong Immune System?? Here are a few simple and effective ways to improve immunity and protect ourselves:


The human immune system is designed to keep our systems free from infection and disease.

Exercise is known to have a powerful impact on the normal function of the immune system. Each time we perform whole-body dynamic cardio respiratory exercise, we activate billions of immune cells, especially those cell types that are able to identify and destroy virus-infected cells!

Cardio respiratory fitness and regular exercise have been shown to enhance immune responses to vaccination, reduce chronic inflammation, and improve some immune markers in several disease categories including cancer, HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, and obesity.

Recent studies also show that exercising 5 days/week decreases the risk of acquiring an upper respiratory infection by nearly 50% compared with no exercise. This exercise routine can also decrease symptom severity by 32% to 41%!

Exercise is especially beneficial for older adults who are more susceptible to infection in general and have also been identified as a particularly vulnerable population during this COVID-19 outbreak.

While exercise may not prevent us from becoming infected, keeping active will boost our immune system to help minimize the extreme effects of many illnesses.

Because the greatest risk of this COVID-19 infection is exposure, we must find creative ways to exercise while maintaining social distancing. Here are just a few:

1. Walk or jog for fitness

2. Gardening/Yard work

3. Exercise Videos

4. Playing outdoors with our kids/pets

2. EAT HEALTHY! An equally important key to a healthy immune system is eating right. Our digestive system is linked closely to all of our body systems, including our immune system, cardiovascular system, etc. What we eat and drink is the fuel for our bodies, and eating a healthy diet will maximize how well our systems function. Making healthy food choices will lead to a strong and healthy immune system, which will give our bodies the tools we need to help fight off infections faster! Visit for healthy and delicious meal choices.

3. SLEEP! Getting the right amount of quality sleep can help our natural resistance to infection. Sleep refuels our mind and body every day, which has a direct impact on how efficient and effective our immune system functions. Lack of adequate sleep causes our bodies to increase its production of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones don’t just keep us awake, they also add stress to our immune systems!

How much sleep should we get? Studies show that getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night can make us 4 times less likely to catch a cold compared with less than 6 hours per night.

4. DECREASE STRESS! Chronic stress has been shown to increase our risk to infections. Being stressed can lead to increased levels of suppressor T cells, which suppress the immune system. When this part of the immune system is impaired, we are more susceptible to viral illnesses including respiratory infections like the flu, corona virus, and the common cold.

The good news is that we can reduce stress through breathing exercise, meditation, getting outdoors, exercise, etc. Exercise helps to reduce emotional stress by releasing brain chemicals (endorphins), which give us a feeling of euphoria/happiness (runner’s high). During this time of anxiety and worry, exercise can be a great way to combat those negative feelings while improving our immune systems and overall health.

We’ve been blessed with an immune system that is designed specifically to destroy and eliminate foreign toxins, chemicals, and invaders that lead to serious illness and disease. By boosting our own immune systems, we can go a long way in taking control and maintaining our own health, including our ability to naturally minimize the severe effects of Corona virus!

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