Have a Cold? Do Burpees!  

by Dr Jeff Godin, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., and Director of Spartan Coaching

We have previously discussed the value of the Burpee as it relates to physical fitness (read this blog). The Burpee may also be your best defense against infections.

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and glands that carry fluid from tissues back to the blood stream. The lymphatic system plays an important function in re-circulating immune cells back into the blood stream and tissue where they protect the body from foreign invaders. The lymphatic system is often called the second circulatory system and is equally as important. However, unlike blood, lymphatic vessels and the lymphatic fluid contained within them do not have a pump to help circulate the fluid.

The lymphatic system relies on the effects of gravity, breathing, and skeletal muscle contraction to help keep the fluid moving throughout the system. Without the movement of the fluid the immune system is compromised. The Burpee takes advantage of all three of these methods and may be a sure fire solution to facilitate the movement of fluid throughout the system.

The Burpee utilizes the muscles of the upper and lower body. The muscles in the extremities contract and relax in a cyclical fashion, massaging the lymph vessels and facilitating the movement of lymph fluid. The high metabolic demand of the Burpee stimulates deep breathing. The constant changes in pressure in the thoracic cavity versus the abdominal cavity during deep breathing stimulates the flow of lymph though the system. Also, although not tested, it is reasonable to believe that the rapid changes in posture from the vertical position, to the horizontal prone position, and then back to the vertical position also facilitates the movement of fluid through the lymphatic system. The constant
change in body position changes the hydrostatic pressure within the lymphatic system. Fluid movement undoubtedly occurs with changes in hydrostatic pressure. Have you ever stood up fast and felt “light-
headed”? That is the result in a drop in hydrostatic pressure in the circulatory system; the blood has “dropped” into the lower extremities. Conversely, if you hang upside down for a second, the blood accumulates in the thorax and head. Essentially lying down and jumping up has the same effect, there is rapid movement of blood and lymphatic fluid through their respective vessels.

A recent paper by Lisa Hodge published in the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine suggests that manual Lymphatic Pump Techniques enhance immunity and may protect against pneumonia. The Burpee acts in similar fashion, accelerating the pumping action and increasing movement of lymph through the system. The Burpee reigns as the exercise champ!

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10 Responses

  1. avatar

    This is fascinating. Thank you very much.

    @216RBE

  2. avatar

    Nice!!! Building a solid case around the importance of “The Burpee”

  3. avatar

    The lymphatic pump that is taught to us DOs is actually based on science. It supposedly helped lower the death rate in the flu epidemics in the early 1900s. A burpee is more exertion, but it works on the same principles. If only my 90 year old patients could do them…

  4. avatar

    This is one of those things that
    “I’ve always known”,
    but just didn’t realize.
    Thanks for re-teaching me.

  5. avatar

    Now just to memorize this.

  6. avatar

    Good to know. I might be doing burpees more often now.

  7. avatar

    Most people (including medical doctors) really don’t understand the lymphatic system. It is our bodies sewer system as well as our main immune system. If course moving lymph will help against the flu or pneumonia because that us exactly where every sickness and disease kits.

  8. avatar

    And still I hate them!

  9. avatar

    Such a good tip!! thanks

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