Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

5 Ways You Can Strengthen Your Immune System

man stretch outside before exercising to strengthen immune system

Your immune system helps your body fight off viruses, bacteria, and toxins, so you don't get sick. A strong immune response helps prevent illness and keeps you healthier.

How to Have a Strong Immune System

The good news is that you can do things every day to strengthen your immune system, so it's ready to take on viruses and other invaders if your body is exposed to them.

Exercise Regularly

In addition to physical and mental health benefits, exercise improves immune system functioning. When you're active, it's easier for your body to:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. Aerobic exercises include:

Eat Healthy

A diet with too much sugar, salt, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats may increase inflammation throughout your body and make your immune system less effective. Researchers linked chronic inflammation to:

A healthy diet should include whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Sleep Well

Irritability and fatigue aren't the only consequences of a poor night's sleep. While you snooze, your body produces cytokines, proteins that help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. When lack of sleep becomes a chronic problem, you may notice you tend to catch colds and other illnesses more often. To help improve your sleep:

Lower Stress

Chronic stress increases inflammation and decreases the number of white blood cells available to fight infections. Keep stress under control by making time for activities and hobbies you enjoy. Yoga, meditation, or massage can also help you feel calmer.

Not surprisingly, many Americans have felt more stressed than usual this past year. In fact, 67% of people surveyed by the American Psychological Association reported feeling stressed due to the pandemic. But even if you have good reason to be stressed, learning how to manage it is an important step in avoiding illness and staying healthier overall.

Reduce (or Quit) Drinking and Smoking

Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes may affect your body's ability to fight off illnesses and infections. According to the Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, smoking makes it particularly difficult to fight viral and bacterial infections that affect the lungs. Lowering your intake of these substances, or quitting completely, is an effective way to strengthen your immune system.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week