6 ways to keep your immune system healthy

by Kaiser Permanente |
Young person runs outside

Your immune system plays a vital role in keeping you healthy. It’s your personal line of defense against sickness, infection, and disease. How can you keep your immune system strong? By practicing healthy habits.

Here are steps you can take to help keep your immune system healthy.

Protect yourself from infections

When your immune system is working to kill a virus or disease, it can take a toll on your overall health. So, it’s important to avoid infections whenever possible. Simple things you can do to help protect yourself include:

  • Practice proper hygiene: Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and shower or bathe regularly.
  • Get vaccinated: One of the best ways to strengthen your immune system is by staying up to date on your vaccinations — especially during this year’s flu season. Getting your flu shot will reduce your risk of getting the flu, which will help keep your immune system healthy. And if you haven’t already, remember to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can.
  • Get recommended health screenings: Health conditions like heart disease or type 2 diabetes can weaken your immune system. But these diseases can often be prevented — especially if the warning signs are caught early. Going to preventive care visits may help your doctor catch the early signs of a disease before it causes serious health complications.

Eat healthy

Studies have shown that malnutrition — or a poor diet — can weaken our immune systems.1 To keep your immune system strong, give your body the nutrients it needs to thrive. This means eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and lean proteins — while limiting saturated fat, added sugar, and salt. Need healthy and simple recipe ideas? Check out our Food for Health site.

Exercise regularly

Maintaining a consistent exercise routine can help you build strength and endurance. And when your body is strong and healthy, your immune system can run at peak performance. In fact, a recent study showed that people who exercised regularly had a lower risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Just make sure not to push yourself too hard. Excessive exercise can have the opposite effect by wearing down your body, so you have less strength to fight infections. Aim for at least 150 minutes (or 2½ hours) of moderately intense exercise every week. It can be a brisk walk, online yoga class, or HIIT workout.

Stress less

Stress can put a strain on your immune system and your body’s ability to effectively fight disease. You can help your immune system by taking steps to control your stress levels. Activities like journaling, deep breathing, and yoga can reduce stress. And research suggests that meditating may help improve your immune system.2

Quit tobacco

Smoking, vaping, or using tobacco products damages your body. Tobacco use — like smoking cigarettes — may cause inflammation which can impact your immune system’s ability to do its job.3

Quitting tobacco can be tough, but there are many resources and programs available to help you.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important for both your physical and mental health. Giving your body the time it needs to rest can help keep your immune system healthy.4

How much sleep should you get? The standard recommendation is 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. But how long you sleep is less important than how you feel when you wake up. You should wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day. If you don’t, then you can explore ways to get better sleep.

Bottom line

The best way to give your immune system a boost is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Explore our health and wellness resources to learn more ways you can stay healthy and thrive.

Claire D. Bourke et al., "Immune Dysfunction as a Cause and Consequence of Malnutrition," ScienceDirect, Trends in Immunology, June 2016.

David S. Black et al., "Mindfulness Meditation and the Immune System: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, January 21, 2016.

Feifei Qiu et al., "Impacts of Cigarette Smoking on Immune Responsiveness: Up and Down or Upside Down?" Oncotarget, November 25, 2016.

Luciana Besedovsky et al., "The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease," Physiological Reviews, July 2019.