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Exercise supports immunity, the boost your immune system needs this winter

By Karen Pulla, Vice-President of Health, Wellness, and Community Impact

Karen Pulla is a mother of two who loves music, hikes with her 100lb German Shepherd, and team sports – playing her favourite, flag football, for the last 30+ years. Karen has enjoyed working for the YMCA for over 35 years, where every day, you see the impact of what makes a difference in our community.

There are any number of reasons why we strive for lifelong health and fitness. Sports and recreation programs give us the opportunity to improve our health physically, mentally, and socially while also building relationships through common activities and experiences. It helps us develop healthy lifestyles, and engage more fully in living. Sport and recreation build stronger, healthier, happier and safer communities.*

I recently came across an exciting new reason to exercise that tells me we need to mask up where needed and continue with our fitness routines. Exercise helps your COVID vaccine do its magic.

When it comes to COVID, I have always been a supporter of wearing a mask. It is the single most effective way to reduce the transmission of the virus, short of locking ourselves back into our homes – and few of us are considering that, even as cases rise. So I‘m masking up more than I did over the summer, at work and while out and about.

At the Y, as an employer, we encourage staff members to do the same. It’s their choice. Masks are also recommended for members popping in to work out at a Health, Fitness & Aquatics centre, or using other programs and services. Masks are the magic that can keep us healthy and help protect us from COVID as the winter months unfold. They are also the tool that can keep some of us working out if we’re concerned about virus transmission indoors. As I’ve said, it’s important to keep up with those workouts.

There is evidence that exercise can enhance the effects of vaccines or booster shots. That’s right! I recently came across an article in The New York Times, Exercise May Enhance the Effects of a Covid or Flu Shot, which talked about exercise directly following a vaccination or booster shot, and how exercise also provides “a potent boost to our immune systems” overall.

Longer-term studies are underway, but this winter, it’s hard to beat improved immune systems as a motivator to continue with a fitness program. If you are leery about visiting your recreation or fitness facility to work out as COVID cases rise, I suggest this… mask up and come in. You may have to back off on the intensity of your workout a bit if you’re wearing a mask, but research has proven that’s better than no workout at all! Your immune system will thank you, as it has with every other sweaty workout.

* See more in The National Benefits Hub, “Research that Supports Recreation” here.

There’s no better time to try the Y! From December 5-19, take part in the 12 Days of Fitness with a free 12-day trial pass. Visit your local YMCA Health, Fitness & Aquatics centre to get your pass today!


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