By Justin Miller
Special to the
Opelika Observer

People come in contact with thousands of germs each and every day. Some of these germs can cause a person to fall ill and have adverse effects on the human body. Luckily, the body has its own set of defenses to fight these germs: the immune system. However, in order for it to work properly, people must take proactive measures.

“Like a car, the immune system needs to be tuned up in order to properly function,” said Tamara Warren, an Alabama Extension human nutrition, diet and health specialist. “Proper nutrition and physical activity are keys to tuning up an immune system.”

Proper Nutrition in Diets

There are many people today who do not incorporate nutrient-rich foods into their diet on a daily basis. Having a diet that consists of proper amounts of nutrients is one of the best ways to build up an immune system. Warren said that several nutrition-related health problems can lead to an ill-prepared immune system.

“Diets that are high in calories, fat, salt and sugars can lead to the development of chronic diseases,” she said. “Many of these diseases, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes, can cause the immune system to tune down.”

Consuming the right amount of nutrients provides the body with the necessary tools to fight off infections and diseases. Warren said meals should include a variety of foods from all of the food groups.

“Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins and dairy products all contain key nutrients that are important to an immune system working properly,” Warren said.

Get Moving

In addition to a proper diet, physical exercise is also an important aspect to developing a strong immune system. Warren said people should engage in physical activity daily.

“Physical activity increases oxygen levels and provides the human body with the needed energy to strengthen an immune system’s fighting power,” she said. “Adults should be active for 150 minutes a week and youth for 60 minutes a day.”

While some may lack the motivation to exercise, Warren said walking is an easy option that can fit into almost any schedule.

“Walking is one of the easiest and most stress-free exercises that can also be enjoyable,” Warren said. “The key is to start small and steadily increase the time you devote to physical activity.”

Walking Like a CHAMPION

The Alabama Extension Walking Like a CHAMPION campaign is here to help people get moving. This is an ongoing statewide campaign that encourages Alabama residents to get healthy by eating the right foods and adding physical activity to their daily routines. Participants can walk as individuals or be a part of the program with a group. Visit the Walking Like a CHAMPION page for more information.

More Information

The Alabama Extension content piece Tuning Up an Immune System provides a more in-depth look into strengthening an immune system. More information on health and nutrition is available on the Alabama Extension website