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Sports Builds Immunity

Over the last few decades people in developing countries such as ours seem to be falling prey to lifestyle diseases which according to World Health Organization (WHO) is the result of inadequate physical exercise and nutrition.

At times while taking crucial decisions you might feel doubtful or might second guess yourself…or you just might be waiting for that creative spark which somehow seems elusive. Recall a time when a brisk walk made you feel better? Or when a short jog cleared the fog in your brain and helped you gain a whole new perspective of a situation at work. Ever wondered…Why?

It is proven that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better. Research shows that exercise in any form can considerably improve convergent and divergent thoughts which in turn aid in creativity.

It is essential to unplug once in a while… overall wellness is a combination of both physical and mental health.

The current uncertainty has significantly changed our lives resulting in reduced physical activity and increased levels of stress and anxiety. It has impacted adults and kids at different levels with diverse intensities.

Our demanding jobs keep us cooped up at our desks for most of the day and we’re too tired to do anything productive later. Tight academic schedules occupy most of the routine for kids. Adults need to unwind and rejuvenate themselves and kids... kids need to play!

But, I don’t have time!
Don’t have time?..Nah..that’s just an excuse! And STOP PROCASTINATING! Your body needs exercise and needs it yesterday!!
Start playing and you will always find time for it…sports are addictive. And why not? Sports activities can make us physically fit while allowing us to switch off from our mind numbing routine.

Sports can be quite economical too. Take Badminton for example...all it takes is a racket and a shuttlecock.

I remember a time when my summer vacations were sorted thanks to my daily health drink….with which I earned a free shuttle racket! Convinced my best buddy to switch her daily beverage too for obvious reasons! A crooked line drawn with chalk was our ‘net’ and our game would go on for hours. We would be famished afterwards and promptly fall asleep after that. I also remember that we seldom fell sick..which conspicuously is uncommon in kids these days.

Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I understand that Badminton apart from being an engaging sport also has great health benefits such as:

Increasing Lung Function:
Lung capacity is something with which all of us are born with. But lung function depends on our muscle tone and strength which are directly proportionally related to our breathing capacity.

Improving Blood Circulation:
Playing badminton has an anti-inflammatory effect on our body by improving blood circulation and increasing the number of White Blood Cells (WBCs) which constitute a major part of our body’s defence mechanism against diseases

Building up our immune system and reducing inflammation are both crucial if we’re to be challenged by a formidable viral infection.
A team of medical professionals including Qishi Zhenga, Guangying Cuia published a paper in Karger Journal1. They recruited a group of 20 ‘Regular Exercise’ student badminton players and a group of healthy but ‘Sedentary’ students. They concluded that the immune cells activation in the badminton group was higher than the sedentary group.

The best thing about Badminton is that you can take it up anywhere and with anyone. Agree that open spaces these days are not very common, but we have access to well-equipped sports centres that ensure we have a great experience. Couple that with the presence of experienced coaches who know just the right amount of exercise good for us and we don’t have a reason not to play the game.

Fast Paced Sports
There are other similar fast paced sports including Basketball, Football, Squash that help improve cardiovascular health, bone and muscle strength and aid in decreasing lifestyle related diseases such as hyper tension and diabetes. Sports such as Basketball, Table Tennis help in developing and maintaining mental agility and sharpness. Also the brief increase in body temperature after a session of such sports activity checks bacterial growth and supports the body in fighting against infections better. Increase in concentration, better quality of sleep and a healthy appetite are additional benefits of playing sports.
It’s not about which sport you pick to play, it’s about which sport you enjoy playing. If your soul is not engaged, you may not get the best out of your chosen physical exercise.

Mental Strength
Fitness is a lifestyle. It does not stop with the physical alone. Mental strength is vital too. How we manage stress has an impact on our mental health. We may not be able to control our exposure to stress, but how our bodies respond to it can be regulated.

Bill Russell rightly said ’’ Concentration and Mental Toughness are the margins of Victory”

Our body’s immune functions are impacted by factors that include:

✔ Sleep
✔ Physical Activity
✔ Stress
✔ Ageing

Deficiency in any of the first three factors can affect how our body responds to the last two factors – Stress and Ageing.

Unchecked stress can make us vulnerable to viruses and other infections. Adequate physical activity slows down the release of stress hormones. Lower stress hormones may shield us against illness and thus increase overall immunity.

A study by University of Birmingham and Kings College, London2 revealed that older adults who had exercised regularly all their adult lives had healthy muscle mass and strength and showed no increase in cholesterol levels. Importantly their immunity levels were as good as younger individuals.

After a good workout, your muscles are tired, but you ‘feel’ more relaxed. Participating in sports activities have direct stress-busting benefits. They help amp up our brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. And beating your colleague on a squash court definitely feels good! Lost the bout?..Even more reason to put up a bigger fight tomorrow!

Research demonstrates that exercise boosts the immune system
Researchers from the Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina, have concluded in their study3 that exercise boosts the immune system. Their research has been published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Their subjects were 1002 healthy adults aged in the range of 18 – 85 years for a period of 12 weeks in the US Winter-Autumn seasons when URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infections) are common.

In simple terms, adults who exercised regularly were able to fight off infections which affect the respiratory tract such as common cold, sore throat, tonsillitis, sinusitis etc. Even if they did get affected, the symptoms were 32 % less severe in the top 25 % of exercisers compared to the bottom 25 %.

But like all things good, too much of exercise could reverse the benefits and end up doing more harm than good. It’s always best to seek the assistance of an experienced professional who can guide you in choosing the best type and intensity of exercise according to your body type.

In the current scenario, we owe it to ourselves to be both mentally and physically tough. Sports can help us get there. Be it adults or kids, sports speak to your body, mind and soul.

Ref 1:
Ref 2: News Article: University of Birmingham. "A lifetime of regular exercise slows down ageing, study finds.",the%20body%20young%20and%20healthy
Ref: 3.

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