The winning formulate for living an optimal life: movement, immunity, and meditation.
With the era of the internet, research is at our fingertips allowing us to dive into topics related to health and wellness. With so many factors contributing to our health, movement, immunity and meditation are one of the top considerations because of their unique and intertwining qualities.
Regardless of the intensity, movement has immediate and long-term effects on our overall health. Immediate effects include, improved cognitive function, increase in sleep quality, lowering short-term anxiety, and improving learning and judgment. Some long-term effects include weight management, lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, increasing bone and muscle health which directly impacts quality of life through age.
Our immune system is our powerhouse protecting and fueling us for life. With constant exposure to harmful microbes present in our environment, our immune systems work hard to keep us healthy by recognizing intruders such as bacteria, viruses and parasites and taking immediate action towards them. Our bodies accomplish this through a dual immune function: innate and adaptive.
Innate functions include our bodies first line of defense against harmful microbes by providing a layer of protection. These include our skin which is our largest organ serving as a first line of defense against bacteria. Mucus to block and stomach acid to destroy germs–to name a few. On the other hand, our adaptive system consists of our cells and organs that learns from previous viruses that made their way through our innate system. The adaptive system recognizes the virus so it can use necessary measures to defend against it more effectively than previous times.
Much like movement and immunity that operate on dual systems–immediate vs. long term and innate vs. adaptive–meditation works in a similar manner on what are known as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Among other functions, the sympathetic nervous system regulates heart rate, blood pressure, digestion. Through the chain of ganglia located at the sides of the spine, the sympathetic nervous system sends signals to the body to regulate it’s various functions. It also controls our “fight or flight” response. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is there to support and relax the sympathetic by regulating rest and restore functions.
It’s there to support the sympathetic nervous by performing the opposite roles by getting the body to relax the sympathetic system. The parasympathetic manages the reproductive system, increases digestion to process food for nutrients, remove waste and lower heart rate. The parasympathetic puts into drive functions the sympathetic system increases and lowers function it increases during those “fight or flight” moments. In relation to the two systems, meditation may improve the function of both allowing them to work together more efficiently.
The nervous system–regardless of which one in question– sends signals to the whole body allowing it to perform its many functions. When the nervous system is in overdrive and stressed, it becomes less effective in sending those signals to the rest of the body resulting in deregulation. When the nervous system becomes dysregulated, it can result in higher levels of stress and other systems. Meditation is a tool that works on the nervous system that may allow it to return to it’s proper function. Meditation can reduce those systems allowing the body to relax and regulate itself through its own natural healing abilities. Recent studies suggest that meditation reduces stress, anxiety and depression in people allowing them to feel calmer.
Connecting the three:
Movement, immunity and meditation work in unison supporting each other. Movement reduces stress and promotes musculoskeletal health allowing the body to move optimally. Immunity provides promotion for the body by blocking and fighting bacteria and other harmful microbes from entering the body causing various illnesses. Meditation works on the nervous system–sympathetic and parasympathetic–to regular “fight or flight” allowing the body to easily move between different stats of being. Their ability to work with each other by supporting different yet connected systems within the human body makes it the winning formula for healthy living. Incorporating all three into our routine may promote healthy bodies and healthy minds.