Your body is like a shopping mall. The outer wall is your skin, creating a barrier between the regulated, clean and efficient internal environment and the changing external environment.
Around every opening is a system of traps against unwanted elements. The security guards of the body are the small hairs and the sticky membranes of the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, backed up by the saliva in the mouth, the salty tears in the eyes, and the acid in the stomach.
If the security guards let the body down and troublemakers start wreaking havoc, they can be expelled by bringing in the reinforcements of coughing, sneezing, and vomiting.
If any undesirables get past these first layers of defense, the body has a veritable army of professionals to call on. The defensive force of the body is called the immune system, which is linked together by a specialized transport system called the lymphatic system.
The main professional security guards in the inner sanctum of your body are called lymphocytes, which manufacture missiles called antibodies to fire at intruders. After a while white cells come along to clean up after the battle and swallow what is left of the invader.
The lymphatic system, like the shopping mall, has a system of sanitary workers (lymphocytes and macrophages) scouring your body for foreign particles, microbes, cells, bacteria, and viruses.
These antibodies are made in the spleen, the bone marrow or the thymus. The spleen sits up under your heart, and also works to break down and destroy old red blood cells as they are pumped through it by the heart.
Regular exercise increases the amount of blood in the cardiovascular system, which means more blood will be pumping through the spleen, increasing its efficiency in producing antibodies and filtering out old red blood cells.
The sewerage system of the lymphatic system has a series of flexible pipes called lymphatic vessels. The main reservoir of lymph is called a cistern, the cisterna chyli, located on your right side near your liver.
This sewerage system has lots of sanitation bays, called lymph nodes. These are about the size of a kidney bean and are found in clusters at strategic points around the body. You may be able to feel some of these lymph nodes under your jaw or under your armpit, or either side of your groin. Your tonsils are the only visible part of the lymphatic system.
Lurking in these lymph nodes are the macrophages, which are like jellyfish that can engulf and destroy any unwanted matter in the lymphatic system. There are lots of these located around the digestive system to stop invasions across the intestinal wall. Regular exercise keeps the muscles of the digestion system performing efficiently and reduces the chance of invaders breaching your intestinal walls.
The lymphatic “sewerage system” has lots of watery fluid to keep the body regularly rinsed. Regular low-intensity, long-duration exercise will increase the volume of blood in the body by as much as 20 percent. This also means more fluid available to the lymphatic system to flush through and clean the body.
Higher-intensity activities, such as sports, circuit training or running, will increase your body’s temperature and rate of metabolism. This is like giving yourself a regular, healthy fever, which inhibits microbe growth and speeds up body reactions that aid repair of damage done by troublemakers.
The ends of the lymph vessels are open and shaped like the head of a vacuum cleaner. These open ends are constantly sucking up the fluids between the cells of the body for cleaning, sanitizing and filtering.
The lymphatic system is similar to the veins in that it is dependant on the movement of muscles to force lymphatic fluid around the body. As the muscles contract to move, they also constrict the lymphatic tissues. As these tissues are squeezed, lymphatic fluid is pushed along the lymphatic vessels.
Exercise can assist this process by using the large skeletal muscles to rhythmically contract to force lymph through the lymphatic system. Once in the system, foreign bodies can be filtered through the lymph nodes, where the macrophages and the lymphocytes can destroy any foreign bodies. These destroyed bodies end up in the kidneys for filtering into the urinary system.
A little exercise is enough for the good health of the lymphatic system. Research has shown that too much high-intensity exercise can suppress the ability of the body to produce white cells in the bloodstream. This lack of white blood cells reduces the effectiveness of the immune system, making some athletes more susceptible to infection.
Every exercise session is like encouraging your lymphatic system to have a spring cleaning of your body. Exercise makes you feel good, and research has shown that your thoughts, feelings and moods can influence your level of health. Exercise makes you feel positive, relaxed, strong, and fit. If you feel good this will have a positive effect on your health.