A new study shows that a regular Pilates class improves the immune function within three months.
What Is The Immune System?
Our immune systems are the first line of defence against bacteria and infectious organisms. When these substances invade our bodies causing disease, the immune system fights back with an ‘immune response’ that attacks infection. A healthy immune system is important because without it infections can overwhelm our bodies causing poor health and in some cases death.
How Do We Know It's Working?
Our immune function can be tested through blood exams but also by measuring antibodies in saliva. This is because secretory immunoglobulin A (SigA), an antibody that provides mucosal immunity, is found in the salivary glands. It’s also found in the tear ducts and the genito-urinary tract.
Mucosal immunity protects the gut, lungs and mouth from infections. It has its own rhythm with the highest level in the morning and its lowest in the evenings.
Levels of SigA can change in response to physical and psychological stresses.
What Affects Immune Cells In Our Saliva?
Recent research indicates that there are higher levels in adults than in children, and in children the 11-20 year olds had higher levels than in the 1-10 year olds. This indicates age affects immune cells.
Researchers found no salivary difference between men and women.
How Does Exercise Affect Saliva?
Intense activity can lower the amount of mucosal immunity. Studies show that high levels of physical activity suppress mucosal immunity immediately after activity, taking 24 hours to recover. Intense training over years may lead to long term suppression of immunity.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is an exercise that involves stretching and strengthening the muscles. No cardio is involved. It’s a similar discipline to yoga in that it involves the body and mental concentration.
The physical exertion of Pilates emphasises core muscles, such as lower back, outer thigh, and abdomen, along with balance, strength, flexibility and endurance. It was originally invented to help with the recovery of injured dancers. Joseph Pilates watched the movement of animals and created a series of exercises based on his observations.
Because it involves low impact exercise Pilates is recommended for virtually everyone, but particularly people with injuries and the elderly.
What Happened in The Study?
A study examined the effects of Pilates on the mucosal immune function in older women.
The group was comprised of 12 women who were split into a control group and a Pilates group. Samples of their saliva were gathered before and after exercise. The Pilates group undertook a Pilates exercise program for three months. High intensity activities were carried out before the Pilates program began and again after it had finished.
And the Results?
Researchers found that the salivary rate in the Pilates group was higher than the control group after the three month period had finished. It was also significantly higher during acute exercise after the three month Pilates program. This suggests that regular a Pilates program can increase the salivary rate and boost the mucosal immune response.
So it appears that taking up Pilates is not only good for your posture and mental well-being, it can support your immune system too.
Natural ways to boost the immune system are essential, particularly with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If you’re not a fan of the gym, look for a Pilates class and wave goodbye to constant colds!
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See other pages about Pilates:
Therapies - What is Pilates?