Pump Up Your Immune System

Follow these simple steps to be the type of person who never catches a cold or comes down with the flu.

Strategy #3: Hit the gym—but not too hard
In a large 2010 study, those who were active at least five days a week almost halved the length of their colds. Per other research, folks who exercised after getting a flu shot nearly doubled their immune response. Why? Exercise likely sparks a temporary rise in immune cells. What to do:

  • Fit in 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Just don't overdo it: More than 90 minutes of high-intensity exercise can put stress on the body, decreasing your immunity for up to three days.
Strategy #4: Cut back on stress
Pushing yourself physically isn't the only thing that taxes your system. Emotional stress causes your body to release cortisol and adrenaline, which decrease T cells, says Bruce Rabin, MD, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh's Healthy Lifestyle Program.

  • Laugh. A good giggle can help you stay well. One Loma Linda University study found that laughter boosts virus- and cancer-fighting natural killer cells.
  • Pray. Those who regularly attend religious services are about half as likely to have high levels of a protein that increases inflammation. Not a church-goer? Take a few moments to meditate every day.
  • Dance. It's a potent relaxer—even if you're just shimmying in your head. One study found that people who merely listened to 50 minutes of dance music had less cortisol and more antibodies. So load your iPod—doctor's orders!
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Hallie Levine Sklar
Last Updated: February 05, 2013

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