We live in a world riddled with disease and discomfort. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic inflammation, anxiety, depression, musculoskeletal imbalance… and right now? COVID-19. The last of these has many of us reflecting on our health more than ever before.
Our culture has us looking for a quick fix… cue the fad diets and magic pills. Realistically, however, do these things really work? Or are they just the trendy stops on the road to a better quality of life? Exercise could be the occam’s razor of this chaotic season – when it is easy to feel defenseless.
Thankfully, there is something we can do. Each one of us has the ability to strengthen our own internal line of defense: the immune system. Physical Therapists are in a unique position to guide us in behaviors that will increase their bodies’ natural ability to fight off disease, empowering them to take control of their health and improve quality of life. What’s more? Through HEP, home exercise videos, and the daily health tracker, PtEverywhere.com empowers therapists to empower their patients!
• Increased Blood Flow: Increased circulation improves nutrient delivery to key organs of the immune system including the bone marrow and spleen. On the other side of that coin, improving blood circulation increases the body’s ability to flush out waste.
• Increased Lymphatic Drainage: The Lymphatic system is the body’s first line of defense, transporting and filtering the fluid that carries antibodies, lymphocytes, and bacteria. It takes the “good guys” (antibodies and lymphocytes) to the frontlines and carries away the “enemy” (bacteria). Movement is central to lymphatic drainage, as, unlike the circulatory system, no internal force is pushing the lymph into circulation. Exercise very literally pushes the lymphatic system into defense.
• Decreased Stress: Largely due to the hormone corticosteroid, stress reduces the body’s ability to fight off antigens, increasing susceptibility to infection. Further, chronic stress puts additional strain on the circulatory system, limiting the functions listed under the “increased blood flow” header. In slowing down the release of stress hormones, facilitating endorphin release, and allowing for mental space, exercise is one of the best ways in which individuals can reduce stress.
• Strengthened Antibodies: Exercise causes a shift in white blood cells, increasing the speed by which they circulate through the body, such that they may be able to identify infection sooner than they would otherwise be able.
In addition to the above bullets, exercise temporarily increases body temperature. Similarly to a fever, this temporary rise in body temperature may prevent bacteria from growing and increase the body’s ability to fight off infection. Lastly, exercise helps to cleanse the lungs, potentially clearing respiratory pathogens
The role of your Physical Therapist is now more important than ever. PTs get us into position to move optimally. Not only this, but they educate us on the benefits of a decision to take our plan of care seriously. By educating and prescribing HEP, PTs provide not only the “how,” but the “why.” The “why” is often what motivates patients to move beyond temporary practices to sustainable lifestyle adjustments, as physical therapists create a lifelong positive impact on their patients. In the current age of telehealth, this extra boost of motivation and accountability makes all the difference. Movement is medicine. Your physical therapist is here to help – and can do so even more successfully through PtEverywhere!