“Exercise decreases immunity? What the heck! I thought I was doing something good for my body!” Or, “Reduce my exercise? How am I ever going to lose this weight?” I’ve been hearing these remarks quite a bit from our new clients in the past few weeks.
We all know exercise is a key component to our overall well-being, but most of us aren’t aware that it can wreak havoc on our immunity if we aren’t smart about it. In general, we also think we need to exercise a lot to drop weight or maintain it.
So, what’s the deal? How much exercise do we need to support our best immunity while keeping the weight off? The answer is to watch the clock and your heart rate. Now is the time to embrace the shorter and less intense workout – nice from a time management standpoint, right? Long, intense training sessions unfortunately are more apt to drain and overly stress your body while potentially depressing your immune system and making you hungry. Shorter, less intense workouts will support stronger immunity by increasing lymphocytes and natural killer cells – two good things.
This is good news from a weight loss standpoint, too. We are often told that weight loss is simple – that we simply need to eat less and move more, that “calories in” equal “calories out.” There is, however, a major problem with this concept – our bodies are more complicated than a simple equation. The benefits of increased activity on weight loss aren’t as clear cut as what we have come to believe. In actuality, exercise should be viewed as a wellness tool rather than a weight loss tool.
For now, here are tips on exercise duration and intensity for your best immunity:
Watch your heart rate. Find your maximum heart rate (subtract your age from 220) and subtract your resting heart rate. This equals your heart rate reserve. Find 60% of your HR reserve and add your resting HR. This is the heart rate at which you can exercise to find an immune-boosting function. Max HR – resting HR = HR reserve. 60% HR reserve + resting HR = HR goal for optimal immune strength.
Example for a 55-year-old man: Max HR (220-55 yrs) = 165. 165 max HR – 65 resting HR = 100 HR reserve. 60% HR reserve (0.6 x 100) = 60 + 65 resting HR = 125 heart rate goal.
Watch your clock. Exercise around the heart rate you found above for about 20 to 60 minutes, five times per week. Get outside and go for a nice brisk walk on the other days. If weight loss is the goal, 30 minutes of brisk walking every day should be a sufficient duration.All in all, good news as you can still get your sweat on this spring while supporting your immune system and dropping weight. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find less is actually more, allowing you to come out of this crisis leaner and stronger than you had ever imagined.
Ashley Lucas holds a PhD in sports nutrition and chronic disease and is a licensed, registered dietitian. She is the founder and owner of Ph.D. Weight Loss and Nutrition, offering In-Office and At-Home/Virtual weight management and wellness services in the Four Corners. To contact her, visit www.myphdweightloss.com or call 764-4133.This column has been updated to correct the formula for calculating heart rate reserves.