by Matt Weik
Allergies have the ability to knock us on our butt when we least expect it. We are left with itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, pressure in our sinuses, fatigue, and even sometimes pain. The first thing we think to do is either go to the doctor or go in search of an over-the-counter medication to lessen our symptoms and have us feeling well enough to actually be productive. Little do many people know, exercise is a great way to fight back and reclaim your health from the grasp of nasty allergies. Here are a few ways that exercise can help relieve your allergy symptoms.
1. It helps boost the immune system
For starters, if you aren’t already, you should be taking a high-quality multivitamin. Chances are, you’re not eating a wide enough variety of foods in your diet throughout the day which doesn’t provide you with all of the micronutrients you need. By supplementing what you’re missing with a multivitamin, you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to boost immunity and fight off allergies and illness.
Exercise in itself also boosts your immune system by allowing for quicker circulation of white blood cells. White blood cells are in essence, cellular soldiers that travel throughout your body fighting off bacteria, viruses, allergens, and foreign substances. The faster your white blood cells can circulate, the greater the chance that allergens will be destroyed before they can rear their ugly head and make you feel terrible.
2. Exercise opens up your passages
Engaging in exercise, such as cardio, opens up the blood vessels and aids in transporting not only white blood cells throughout the body but also key nutrients that aid in combating whatever allergen(s) you might have picked up. When we exercise, blood flow improves and naturally our lungs and nose open up. In addition, due to the increased blood flow, exercise can complement any medication you might be taking to relieve some of your allergy symptoms.
Being that you already don’t feel the greatest and your energy levels tend to be low, there’s no need to go out and exert max effort in an attempt to eliminate your allergies. In fact, something as simple as a walk is good enough to increase your heart rate, get the blood pumping, and have you feeling a little better afterward. A word of advice if you were thinking of doing some cardiovascular activity – if you are allergic to something outside (like grass pollen or weeds), stick to indoor activities and workouts. Maybe hit the gym and use the treadmill, bike, or elliptical to save yourself from more exposure to whatever put you here in the first place. If the weather is nice outside and you wanted some fresh air, at least check the daily pollen/allergen counts in your area to see if being outside is even a good idea based on your condition.
You could also hit the weight room and do some resistance training. I wouldn’t recommend loading your max bench on the bar and trying to set personal records, but rather use lighter weights and truly squeeze the muscle during each rep to engorge your muscles with blood and improve blood flow throughout the body.
3. Lifts your spirits
As you probably already know, exercise allows for the release of endorphins. Endorphins are brain chemicals that when released put you in a better mood and help eliminate and mitigate discomfort and/or pain. While this may only be temporary, it’s enough to help you make it through most of your day.
Endorphins are the same chemicals that help put runners into what they most commonly called a “runner’s high.” For the sake of getting too technical, it ultimately puts them in a zone where their experience (distance running) is enjoyable and they don’t feel the discomfort many would associate with the pounding the body takes while running long distances on hard terrain like asphalt roads.
4. It’s ok to ask for guidance
Obviously, we now know that exercise is a great way to relieve allergy symptoms. But, if this is your first time experiencing allergies, I’d recommend going to your doctor. He might be able to better help you understand what allergen is the cause and assist you in making the best decision for your health as well as formulate a plan on how to get you feeling better. Through his professional opinion, he can also let you know if you should exercise indoors only, or if it’s ok for you to head outside to break a sweat. He might even be able to recommend a form of exercise that would be best for your situation and current abilities based on your health and possible limitations.
In addition, your doctor might want you to finish off your workout with a nice hot steamy shower or a trip to the steam room (if your gym has one). Doing such can help loosen mucus and provide you with some relief.