Most of us know that eating right and having a healthy lifestyle helps keep us strong. But did you know that the proper kind of exercise can actually boost your immune system?  The key is to know what types of exercise to do and which ones to avoid.  Working out is important for good health, but you should also know that there are certain exercise scenarios that could weaken instead of enhance your immunity. Find out what you should know in today’s exercise and immunity segment.

A program of moderate exercise is another good way to fortify your immune system.

They key word in the above sentence, however, is “moderate.” Too many people think that the point of exercise is running marathons or competing in triathlons. If you want to compete in extreme sports, that’s up to you, but understand that the training and actual events are highly stressful to your body, and this weakens your immune system. It’s well known to runners that they can often come down with colds and other infections after running a marathon or other especially long race. In the interest of their sport, they pushed their bodies past their healthy limits.

Couple at gym Extreme amounts of exercise produces a lot of free radicals in your body. These weaken your body and make you older. Plus, the stress increases your level of cortisol, the stress hormone.

A study of Harvard graduates found that the optimal level of exercise for long life is 2000 calories per week. That is, whether you walk, run, row, swim or play tennis, you get best results by burning about 300 calories per day. Exercise beyond that level brings little or no additional benefit.

Think about primitive cave people. Sometimes they had to run for great distances, when they wounded a deer or to escape from enemies. But they didn’t do this compulsively on a daily basis. If they had to run to track a deer they wounded with a spear, you can bet that once they brought the deer home, they feasted on that deer’s meat, and probably lay in the sun resting for days before going hunting again.

Most hunting probably consisted of some long walks, along with crouching and hiding for long periods — followed by short bursts of sprinting to overtake their prey.

This indicates that as the descendants of these cave people, our bodies are built to need some long-intensity extended aerobic exercise plus some occasional, short high-intensity efforts.

Besides, they were active this way from early childhood on, so great exertion was not as stressful as to weekend athletes. They didn’t spend years as couch potatoes, then try to build up to running 100 miles a week within six months.

Besides some moderate and regular aerobic exercise, everybody interested in a strong immune system should also keep up a program of strength training to maintain and even increase muscle mass.

To make certain immune system white blood cells, macrophages and neutrophils, your body needs the amino acid glutamine. Your body stores amino acids, including glutamine, in your muscle tissue. When you’re under severe stress, such as fighting a severe infection, your body breaks down muscle cells to release this glutamine to make more of these white blood cells.

If you don’t have adequate amounts of muscle tissue, your immune system won’t get enough glutamine. Then it’ll be unable to manufacture enough macrophages to defend you against the infection.

Strength training doesn’t have to mean weight lifting. The Internet contains information and books you can buy on exercises that will make and keep you strong through supplying your own resistance (isometric exercises) and using your body as the weight. You don’t need to spend money on a gym membership or expensive equipment. Using some empty floor space in your own house, you can keep both your muscles and your immune system strong and fit.

Another key to a healthy immune system — getting enough sleep. Many Americans and Japanese report they don’t get as much sleep as they need and want. Part of that is our busy work schedules — but hey, who’s watching those late night news broadcasts, talk shows and movies on TV?

Go to sleep early. You don’t need to hear about horrible crimes that’ll give you nightmares.  And keeping up with the latest “movie star” crisis isn’t going to  help your health.   That’ll give you more time to enjoy quality with your partner, and then get plenty of rest.

Keeping your immune system strong involves several factors. But some of the most critical things you can do is to have healthy eating habits, exercise regularly and moderately, and finally, make sure that you include rest and adequate sleep in your overall health plan. Knowing that even exercise in moderation can be beneficial just may give you the motivation to get moving. You may find yourself spending more time doing things you enjoy, and less time at the doctor’s office.