How to strengthen your immunity during the coronavirus pandemic: Exercise, meditation, sleep and stress management

(CNN)As the coronavirus situation intensifies, you might be wondering: How can I keep myself healthy?

The answer lies in following the latest guidelines on social distancing, proper handwashing and your local stay-at-home directives.
But there are also ways to strengthen your own immune system. Diet is one of them, and we covered that here in part one of our immunity boosting series.
    Yet what you eat is just one factor. Being physically active, meditating and managing stress, and getting adequate sleep help, too. Keep reading to find out why those habits boost your immunity and how you can take advantage of their benefits.

      Find time for fitness

        Engaging in regular physical activity is a great way to help manage stress and strengthen your immune system. In fact, research shows that "fit individuals" -- defined as those who partake in regular physical activity -- have a lower incidence of infection compared to inactive and sedentary individuals. What's more, being physically active may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases that could further weaken your immune system, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
        How does exercise help? For one, physical activity helps to flush bacteria out of the lungs, decreasing your chances of getting a cold, flu or other illness. Exercise also reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, explained MaryAnn Browning, CEO and founder of Browningsfitness. Lower levels of stress hormones may protect against illness.
          "[Exercise] also stimulates the production of endorphins -- chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators," Browning said.
          For at-home fitness essentials, Browning recommends getting a set of yellow, green and red resistance bands (the colors correspond with varying levels of resistance). "These can be used for back, bicep, triceps, shoulders and leg work," Browning said.
          She also recommends looped bands to go around the calves or thighs, which strengthen the glutes and can help prevent knee and back injuries.
          For an at-home cardio workout, Browning recommends jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, burpees and switch jumps -- during which you'll jump to turn 180 degrees and then back again -- for 15 seconds each. Then repeat the circuit five to 10 times, depending on what you can handle.
          And don't forget about the joy of dancing! My girls and I love blasting our favorite tunes and engaging in impromptu dance parties for a wonderful mood-lifting indoor activity, no equipment required. Try making up fun dance routines, or have someone play DJ and compete in "freeze dance."
          If you are looking for something a bit more structured, there are plenty of online options to choose from. My girls and I have enjoyed the Yoga with Adrienne YouTube channel,t which offers free yoga videos. Free on-demand programs are also available at YMCA360.org, and include boot camp, Barre, yoga and low-impact programs for seniors.
          Another option is Melissa Wood's Health Workouts, which can be accessed online or via her app. "You can use light weights or your own body weight, and they're quick yet super effective. They have been an absolute godsend to me during this time!" said Jamie Plancher, who has a masters in emergency and disaster management and has been "tracking Covid-19 like a hawk."
          "I'm obsessed with Alexia Clark's workouts," said Lindsey Schwartz, who is currently homeschooling her children in New York City. "Everyday is something different ... she's the queen of making sure you use as many muscles as possible in a circuit and knows how to keep it interesting."
          While that program has a subscription-based app, you can also find free workouts on Alexia Clark's Instagram and IGTV.


          If you haven't tried mediation, now might be a good time to start. A recent review involving 20 randomized, controlled trials including more than 1,600 people suggested that meditation may help keep our immune system functioning optimally.
          A stressful circumstance like what we are experiencing now can negatively affect the immune system, but "a consistent meditation practice can help us better respond to stressful situations," explained Ellie Burrows Gluck, a Vedic meditation teacher and the co-founder and CEO of MNDFL, a meditation studio in New York City that also offers live-streamed, at-home practices with meditation experts