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How to strengthen your immunity during the coronavirus pandemic

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

As the coronavirus situation intensifies, you might be wondering: how can I keep myself healthy?

As the coronavirus situation intensifies, you might be wondering: how can I keep myself healthy?

The answer lies in following the latest guidelines on social distancing, proper handwashing and your local stay-at-home directives.

Physical activity, meditation, stress management and adequate sleep are all ways to strengthen your own immune system.

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Why do these habits boost your immunity and how you can take advantage of their benefits?

Find time for fitness

Regular physical activity is a great way to help manage stress and strengthen your immune system.

Research shows that "fit individuals", defined as those who partake in regular physical activity, have a lower incidence of infection compared to inactive and sedentary individuals.

Regular physical activity may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases that could further weaken your immune system, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

How does exercise help? For one, physical activity helps to flush bacteria out of the lungs, decreasing your chances of getting a cold, flu or other illness.

CEO and founder of New York-based Brownings Fitness, Maryann Browning, said exercise also reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, which may protect against illness.

"[Exercise] also stimulates the production of endorphins - chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators," Ms Browning said.

For at-home fitness essentials, Ms Browning recommends getting a set of yellow, green and red resistance bands. The colours correspond with varying levels of resistance.

"These [resistance bands] can be used for back, bicep, triceps, shoulders and leg work," Ms Browning said.

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She also recommends looped bands to go around the calves or thighs, which strengthen the glutes and can help prevent knee and back injuries.

For an at-home cardio workout,  Ms Browning recommends jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks and burpees, then repeat the circuit five to 10 times, depending on what you can handle.

"Don't forget about the joy of dancing! My girls and I love blasting our favourite tunes and engaging in impromptu dance parties for a wonderful mood-lifting indoor activity, no equipment required," she said.

"If you are looking for something a bit more structured, there are plenty of online options to choose from.

"My girls and I have enjoyed the 'Yoga with Adrienne' YouTube channel, which offers free yoga videos. Free on-demand programs are also available online at 'YMCA360' and include boot camp, barre, yoga and low-impact programs for seniors."


If you haven't tried mediation, now might be a good time to start.

recent review involving 20 randomised, controlled trials including more than 1600 people suggested that meditation may help keep our immune system functioning optimally.

Ms Gluck recommends consistent meditation to see health benefits.

"A consistent meditation practice can help us better respond to stressful situations," Vedic meditation teacher and the founder and CEO of MNDFL, Ellie Burrows Gluck, said.

"Life is messy, and although meditation isn't a cure-all it can help us to remember to breathe and that we'll never be able to clean it all up," Ms Gluck said.

"To start meditating, simply bring your full attention to your breath. Sitting with uplifted posture may help, and eyes may be closed or open.

"When you notice your mind wanders with thoughts like, 'What am I going to have for lunch?' come back to your breath without judgment."

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According to Ms Gluck, studies have revealed that you need to practice a minimum of 10 minutes a day for eight to 10 weeks to see the benefits over time.

"When meditating, it's a good idea to aim for consistency when it comes to the style of meditation; the time of day and length of your practice; and your surroundings," Ms Gluck said.

"You might choose your favourite spot on the couch or a designated corner with a meditation cushion."

Ms Gluck's meditation studio also offers online meditation classes.

Manage stress

Research dating back over 25 years has revealed that psychological stress increases susceptibility to illness.

Clinical mental health counsellor and associate director of the Online Master's in Counselling Program at Wake Forest University, Allison Forti explained that prolonged or chronic stress can negatively impact the immune system by reducing the body's ability to defend against viruses and bacteria.

According to Ms Forti,  when under stress, it's not uncommon for people to engage in coping strategies such as drinking excessive alcohol, smoking cigarettes, eating a poor diet, or not getting enough sleep, which can also negatively impact the immune system.

"To calm our anxiety during this stressful time, first acknowledge that it is okay to feel stressed, anxious and afraid," Ms Forti said.

"It is okay to feel panicked ... look for ways to ground yourself in a safe and healthy way that does not cause harm to others."

Ms Forti recommends maintaining a sense of connection with friends and loved via email, call or FaceTime.

"Have live-streamed cocktail hours with friends, like my husband and I did this past Saturday evening," she said.

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"Children can benefit from staying connected, too - one of my friends recently organized a pyjama party via Zoom for my daughter and her friends."

It's also important to avoid judging your feelings and thoughts.

Ms Forti said that everyone should acknowledge their feelings with a sense of care and appreciation and release the expectation that things should be normal.

"If you are feeling stressed about not fine-tuning the perfect home-schooling schedule or web-based activities for your children, that's ok," Ms Forti said.

"Holding on to rigid patterns of thinking exacerbates stress and anxiety."

Don't skimp on sleep

Remember to get your shuteye. Not doing so can negatively affect your immune system, according to the US National Sleep Foundation.

The National Sleep Foundation advises seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

"If your mind has been keeping you up or you simply can't get that amount, fill in the gaps with naps," a spokesperson for the NSF said.

According to the NSF, taking two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, has been shown to help decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system.

"If that's not realistic, a 20-minute catnap during a lunch break or before dinner can help too," the NSF spokesperson said.

Source: 9News

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