There are two things you need to know about exercise and immunity:
1. Too little exercise decreases immunity.
2. Too much exercise decreases immunity.
To understand this, it helps to have an understanding of endocrinologist Hans Selye’s general adaptation syndrome. Through the general adaptation syndrome, anything that takes you from homeostasis or balance of all your systems, you experience stress. For example, when you drink alcohol, you experience stress. When you have an argument you, experience stress. When you don’t get enough sleep, you experience stress. Anything that takes you away from your natural sense of balance or harmony is a stress. And any prolonged stress decreases your immunity. Inadequate exercise is a stressor because we have a need to expend energy. Prolonged inactivity is a significant stressor on all of your body’s systems. Excess exercise is a stressor because when you exercise excessively, you break down tissue without allowing for the normal, natural rebuilding of tissue.
With exercise, Goldilocks has it right: Not too much, not too little—just the right amount. Here are tell-tale signs that you are doing too much exercise:
1. You’re sore all the time.
2. Your interest in exercising is waning.
3. You wake up in the middle of the night (you might think it’s because you need to pee, but it’s because your circadian rhythms are disturbed).
4. You have injuries.
And back to immunity, if you get frequent colds, it can be a sign that you are exercising too much. The take-home message: Do exercise you love. Do it enough to enjoy it and not too much to weaken yourself.
For a review of some excellent research on exercise and immunity, check out this excellent New York Times article.
Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.