Like many things in your body, you can exercise the immune system to make stronger and convert immature immune cells to become more active in finding antigens and getting rid of them. When you train your muscles appropriately, they become somewhat bigger and stronger and not to mention the connective tissues between your bones and muscles.
Jogging or hiking makes your lungs and your heart more fit in breathing and circulating blood. Your brain cells need to be stimulated too to keep your cognitive ability maintained and healthy regarding memory and processing information. You can do the same thing by exercising your immune system but in a slightly different way, then let’s say, your muscles so let’s go over it.
Play with Dirt...It’s Good for Your Immunity
Your immune cells become stronger and more prepared when they get exposure to microbes such as the bacteria in dirt. Doing gardening or similar tasks where part of your body is in contact with the earth is a real thing. Microbes, the good and bad are everywhere thus introducing your body to them from time to time is like offering mini-courses to your B cells and T cells to recognize and deal with them. And dirt teems with microbes and actually without these microbes the soil will have poor quality.
So every time your immune cells confront germs your Natural Killer cells increase in numbers and respond to these communities of microbes, and they get better at it every time that happens. Now, I am not saying you should bathe in the dirt every morning to strengthen your immunity but at the same time, you should not try to live in a sterile environment either.
No doubt the government health measures of public sanitation that was established in major U.S. cities decades ago such as cleaner water, better sewer system, and garbage collection helped significantly in eliminating or reducing diseases such as typhoid and cholera.
On the other hand, I believe we need to relax a bit when it comes to cleanliness, and the Hygiene Hypothesis is a good example of explaining having our children live in too-clean houses and the environment might not be a good idea. The theory explains how the immune system is not having the proper interaction with microbes the immunity becomes less trained and even worse attacking the body cells and food creating intolerance or allergies (1).
Dr. Ruebush who is a microbiology and immunology teacher and an author of Why Dirt Is Good, explains that children exposed to playing with dirt from an early age will have a better chance of avoiding allergic reactions thanks to the appropriate response of the immune system (2)
Interacting with animals (farm animals or even pets) seems to be another good way to provide the immune system a good workout so to speak. Again, it is about being exposed to different kinds of microbial organisms and training the cells, so the immune function becomes better at recognizing if this substance is an antigen to attack or not. Children raised on farms have better immune function thus fewer allergies
and allergic asthma and at the same time having pets like dogs and cats do stimulate the immune system and making stronger (3).
I realize that’s a tough one, but many people around the world do swim in cold water for few seconds or even minutes. Coldwater is a way to condition the immune system by forcing your immune cells to adapt to this temporary challenge and also increasing the number of leukocytes and monocytes as these are primary immune cell defenders (4).
How to Do It?
Here is a suggestion on how to introduce your body to cold water or even cold air during wintertime. Start gradually when you expose yourself to cold water the first time. While you are showering change the water temperature colder a bit and then spend few seconds before you make it even colder. Keep doing this process until you reach your maximum ability to be exposed to cold water.
Next time you take a shower try to increase the coldness or the duration to few more seconds. So for example, if you were able to do it for 10 seconds then try to do it for 15 or 20 seconds. Or make the water colder than last time and stick with the 15 seconds. That’s what I do personally, and I love the feeling afterward on my skin and overall of being refreshed. During winter time where we have temperatures plummet to below freezing point, I would go out have naked in the backyard and walk for about 1 to 3 minutes and sometimes I do it at night and daytime. Have fun.
These are the three ways to exercise the immune system that I follow and recommend for you to do. One more critical factor you should think about is that improving your immune system is an added benefit, but you need to build your foundation first like including your immune-boosting foods.