Exercise needs to be a part of your lifestyle. That’s the bottom line. I know that and you know that. But what really makes exercise so good for us? What does it actually help with?

For starters, healthy bones. Participating in resistance training or weights training is known to help you maintain bone density as you age. This is super important as you get older because your bones can lose some integrity. Think of your skeleton as your shield protecting all your internal organs, so you want to keep it as strong (and dense) as you can!

Next, lets talk sweat. When we get rid of body fluids we are excreting the things our body doesn’t want. Sweat’s main job is to cool our body down when we are hot, but it can also work to eliminate toxins from your body. Also, by drinking loads of water and sweating some out, we are getting a good flush through system happening.

Decreased body fat. Like a lot of things, fat is needed and absolutely necessary, but can be detrimental to your health in large amounts. Keeping body fat to a healthy level lowers your risk of developing many chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes. 

Mental wellbeing. This is by far my favourite benefit of exercise because a happy head, I think, should always be your top priority.  Imagine exercise as your number one, no prescription needed, go-to anti-depressant. Exercise can help to clear your head and release chemicals in your brain also known as endorphins or the happy hormones. Basically, increasing these levels will improve your mood.

Lastly we’re looking at how exercise boosts your Immune system. Exercising can increase the movement or flow of your White Blood Cells (the immunity cells) around your body, keeping them ready to fight off any infections! Think of this as keeping them equipped for battle. An army who is prepared and ready to fight is going to protect it’s home better than an army that has yet to be assembled!

With immunity in mind; what is the best thing to do when you do get sick? Some of you won’t want to deter from your exercise routines and some of you will jump (metaphorically) at the excuse to stop! And honestly, both are right. Sometimes movement will be your best bet and sometimes you need to rest, but either way, you definitely need to slow down.  

When is it best to stop drop and rest and when is it best to sweat it out?

If you are battling a common cold and feel up to it, exercise can help you to feel and get better. But it is important to realise that exercise, when under the weather, doesn’t mean go and run a marathon or do a high intensity workout. Exercise here, means merely moving your body, with no pressure to “perform”. This might mean going for a stroll in the fresh air. It might mean tagging along to your regular class but just doing half of it. Maybe it’s doing a little home workout with a few squats and sit ups.

The aim is to slightly raise your heart rate and increase blood flow around the body, to promote healing. It’s also going to release those “happy” hormones we were talking about – the ones that make you feel good. And let’s be honest, if you’re physically a little run down, you could well be mentally a bit drained as well and in need of a mental pick me up! It’s also going to help to release some stress; both physically by getting blood flow to your extremities (all the way through your limbs to your fingers and toes) loosening things up for you; and mentally via those good hormone pathways.

If you’re not sure that you are up for a walk or light workout, try some easy leg swings and shoulder rolls. JUST enough to move.  Always check with your health care professional but as a general guide, if you’re bed ridden with a nasty flu, I would avoid exercise. If you have muscle aches, rest. Remember, your heart is a muscle so raising your heart rate under these conditions wouldn’t be a good idea. In this case, your best bet is to up your water intake, take it easy and maybe get some fresh air when you feel up to it (be sure to put on a jumper). When you are on the mend, you can start to SLOWLY build up your movement, always listening to your body and being aware of how you feel.

Whilst moving can be a great tool in your recovery, it is important not to overdo it. Listen to your body and stick to light exercise (think walking, stretching or a few bodyweight exercises).  When you do feel like you are getting better and are ready to start moving again, TAKE IT SLOW building back up. Again, for the people in the back, TAKE IT SLOW! It will do you a lot better to take that extra day to ease back in, rather than overdoing it and getting stuck back in bed again.

With all this in mind, it’s time to be honest with yourself and put you first. Exercise, most of the time can do wonders for our immunity and general health. So, rug up this winter and if you can, keep on moving!