Immune Boosting Strategies For The Elderly

Written by Dr. Pramod Mane on Tue, 01 August 2023


Exercises have several health advantages for the elderly, including immune-boosting benefits. Strategies are suggested to help the elderly move more for better health.

As our body ages, we find ourselves having joint aches, feeling tired and being more susceptible to illness. This can put us in loops of inactivity that can be hard to break.

Heard about Immune Senescence?

The human body is a network of interrelated systems that depend on each other to function well. This especially pertains to the immune system; its healthy functioning depends on an interplay of various body functions that help to defend your body against invading or harmful substances. However, as we grow older, our bodies go through a process known as immune senescence. This is a term used to describe the tendency of immune system in older adults to allow more infections, cancers and diseases to take hold.

Nevertheless, strengthening and supporting your general health and wellbeing will put you on track to boost your immunity and the body systems that support it.

Physical activity: Crucial for Immunity

We know that regular exercise is a keystone of healthy living. There is growing amount of evidence which suggests that improved physical activity can boost immunity and our body's ability to resist and recover from infection and disease.

Physical activity can contribute to general good health by improving blood circulation, helping internal regulation of various body systems, reducing stress and by helping to flush out toxins and to clear your airways. In this way, a healthy and active lifestyle can support your immune system and bolster its disease-fighting capacity. Exercise also delays the age-related cognitive decline and keeps the brain agile.

How much and how often?

Doctors and scientists say that the elderly should remain as active as possible, without overexerting themselves. Exercise for seniors need not be strenuous to achieve health benefits. Health benefits of exercise for the elderly can be obtained from even 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. If you were sedentary before, start slowly - you can build up to more gradually. Even 5 minutes of physical activity has many health benefits.

What kind of physical activities should the elderly do?

Any low-impact weight bearing exercise are good to be included in the daily routine. These exercises may help in preventing muscle loss, improving posture and balance, thus reducing falls, which is the major factor for getting bed-ridden. Being bed-ridden may lead to many health complications resulting in reduced immunity.

Here are some easy tips and suggestions on how to improve immunity through physical activity:

1. Go on daily walks

Let's start with the simplest first, daily walks.

Walking is a low-impact form of exercise, which can improve blood circulation, posture and oxygenation. A half-hour walk a day is an easy way to incorporate immunity-boosting exercise into your day, without even noticing.

You can walk at a park, around the house, around your neighbourhood or even on a treadmill, according your convenience. You can even walk to run errands like grocery shopping, to buy a newspaper or even to visit a nearby friend.

2. Incorporate light aerobic exercise

If you are able to do, choose any light aerobic activity. These are activities that make your heart beat faster - like jogging, dancing, water aerobics, low impact trekking and nature walks etc. Try to integrate activities that do not strain your joints and back excessively, into your daily schedule.

It is important not to exert yourself, listen to your body and take breaks as necessary.

3. Be socially active

Keep in touch with your loved ones. You can make physical activity an enjoyable social occasion. The elderly can avail the benefits of socialization by arranging to play games, have afternoon teas and other sociable activities with friends and family.

You can also build networks of friends to help staying active and exercise with. This can keep up the motivation levels to stick to the daily excise regimens better.

4. Keep busy with chores

We spend most of our time indoors. Household chores for elderly may help them keep their body engaged and active by participating in daily home activities and chores. Help around the house by cooking, cleaning, dusting, doing laundry etc. This may seem trivial, but every movement counts towards helping your immune function.

5. Find engaging hobbies

Find new hobbies and attend hobby classes. Choose activities you find interesting, as you are more likely to keep up with it for long term and therefore it can help bring you out of a sedentary rut. You can look for hobby classes in your area, join a social club or explore the internet for more ideas.

Some options include, gardening, flower arrangement classes, dance classes, baking, playing badminton, table tennis etc. Benefits of gardening for seniors include better agility and strong immune function. The same applies for other hobbies too.

6. Learn swimming

Swimming can be an enjoyable way of keeping active, it is gentle on the body yet provides enough resistance to complete your daily quota of physical engagement. Water aerobics classes are a low-impact activity that can help improve your body's strength and keep your immune system active and well-functioning.

7. Don't sit still

Many older adults may spend a majority of their time seated, due to various reasons. Don't let this hinder you from being active, you can incorporate light stretches and various seated yoga postures to help boost your physical activity. This can also help improve blood circulation, reduce stress and strengthen your body's defences.

The biology of our bodies change as we age. This is a natural process which comes with its own set of challenges. By keeping our minds and bodies engaged in moderate physical activity we can improve our immunity and live a healthy, disease-free life.

Read more : Plant-Based Nutrition and the Human Immune System


Dr. Pramod Mane

A Doctor of Medicine (MD) in Pharmacology., currently based in Mumbai, India, Dr Pramod Mane, comes with an experience of more than 20 years of working in Medical Affairs in the Pharmaceuticals & Nutraceutical Industry. Director of Medical Services at Mega Lifesciences since 2008, Dr Mane has been associated with several MNCS in the areas of Medical Affairs, Medical Services, Medico-marketing, Pharmacovigilance & Clinical trials in his illustrious career.

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