How Exercising Impacts Your Immune System


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Boosting the immune system is top-of-mind for many people, given the current world climate. In reality, having a good immune system depends on many factors. Unfortunately, you cannot control all of these factors. Exercising is a big part of having a healthy immune system, so you should motivate yourself and do as many workouts so you can fight infection. Read our article to find more about the experts opinions about how exercise impacts your health.

Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist, sports nutritionist and author of “The Micro Workout Plan” explains: “Exercise, both cardiovascular as well as resistance training, helps to strengthen the immune system and counter the effects of immunosenescence, the gradual deterioration of the immune system,”.

Holland adds: “This holds true for both moderate- and high-intensity cardiovascular exercise.”

Obesity – linked to immunosuppression and susceptibility to illness

Aaron Brown, a certified personal trainer and research associate at Ultimate Performance affirms that evidence also suggests that obesity can cause immunosuppression and increased susceptibility to illness. But research has shown regular bouts of exercise can help reverse some of these effects, even without weight loss. Regardless of our weight, the immune system can benefit from any kind of exercise.

Besides our positive attitude gained thanks to physical exercise, positive changes that could also be observed on a cellular level, there is also strong evidence observed at a population level, that exercise is a good thing for our immune systems.

Todd Buckingham, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at Mary Free Bed Sports Rehabilitation Performance Lab explains: “As humans, our disease susceptibility follows a J-shaped curve,”. This means people who don’t have any physical activity (or very little) have a moderate risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection, which is how you’d categorize COVID-19. People with moderate levels of physical activity have a low risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection, about 40% less than those with low/no activity, Buckingham explains.

When exercising has an opposite effect

Buckingham says. “Because COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, this is particularly important for athletes (and non-athletes) to pay attention to right now.”

Holland agrees: “These athletes often have a mild cold or sore throat during their taper, and this is often attributed to the extended workouts and volume of training.”

This might be in part due to something known as the hormesis effect, as Brown explains: “Hormesis theory suggests that there is an appropriate dose of stress our physiology actually adapts to in the mid- to long-term to protect us from future bouts of stress,”. “Too little stress and we won’t adapt and progress from exercise; too much stress from training and we can end up not recovering, injured, in pain and even seeing our performance suffer.” So there’s a range of “just enough” exercise, and we don’t want to go too far over or under it.

In any case, it’s unlikely exercising too intensely is something most people need to worry about. the overwhelming majority of people do not truly exercise at these higher intensities, Holland explains, despite the popularity of at-home HIIT programs. “That being said, for those who do push their cardiovascular workouts into the anaerobic ‘red zone,’ it’s better to hold back for a few weeks while continuing to exercise in these unique times.”

In conclusion

Continue your exercising routine while home, as exercising is a key factor that has a major impact on keeping your immune system healthy.

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