In this article we are going to discuss the effects of exercise on immunity. We will discuss how moderate exercise has beneficial effects on the immune function. And then we will talk about why prolong and strenuous exercise is not good for your immune system. And in the end, we will also discuss some key five daily lifestyle changes that you can do that will boost your immunity and help you fight infections and diseases.
Physical exercise has numerous effects on the human body, including the immune system. It is well known that mild to moderate exercise helps to boost the overall immune system and activity of key white blood cells. Although exercise immunology is considered a relatively new area of scientific discovery, with 90% of papers being published after 1990 some of the earliest studies were published well over a century ago. For example, in 1902, Larabee provided evidence that changes in white blood cell differential counts in marathon runners parallel those that are seen in certain disease conditions.
You also observed that the exertion had gone far beyond the physiological limits. And our results certainly show that where this is the case, we may get a considerable leukocytosis of an inflammatory type, which basically meant that prolonged, strenuous running in marathon runners leads to a decreased function of white blood cells.
Over the last four decades, many studies have investigated how exercise affects the immune system. It is widely agreed that regular moderate intensity exercise is beneficial for your immunity. But a view is held by some that more strenuous exercise can suppress the immune system, leading to an open window of heightened infection risk in the hours and days following the exercise, which basically means that you may become prone to viral flu and other respiratory illnesses after strenuous exercise as done by marathon runners.
In a benchmark study in 2018, this open window hypothesis was challenged by Dr. Campbell and Dr. Turner. They reported in a review article that the theory was not well supported by scientific evidence, summarizing that there is limited reliable evidence that exercise suppresses the immunity, concluding instead, that exercise is only beneficial for the immune system.
They said that in the short term exercise can help the immune system fight and deal with pathogens. And in the long term, regular exercise slows down changes that happen to the immune system with aging, therefore reducing the risk of infections.
In a recent article published by leading experts including Dr. Turner and Dr. Campbell they debated whether the immune system can change in a negative or positive way after exercise, and whether or not athletes get more infections, then the general population. The article concluded that infections are more likely to be linked to inadequate diet, psychological stress, insufficient sleep, travel, and most importantly, pathogen exposure at social gathering events like marathon runners, rather than the act of exercising itself.
Dr. John Campbell added that people should not fear that their immune system will be suppressed by exercise, placing them at increased risk of Coronavirus. Provided exercises is carried out according to the latest government guidelines on social distancing, regular exercise will have a tremendous positive effect on our health and well being both today and for the future.
So the key takeaway points from this study are:
- Exercise improves immunity
- Exercise improves white blood cells and increases their movement and potential for fighting diseases
- The data that strenuous exercise decreases immunity is not clear.
There is also a fourth point in exercise physiology that is particularly important at this point of time. The researchers underline the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene when exercising, including thoroughly washing hands following the exercise to give the body its best chance at fighting off infections. This suggests in addition to doing regular exercise, people need to pay attention to the amount of sleep they get.
Regular moderate aerobic exercise such as walking, running or cycling is recommended with the aim of boosting your immunity. Don’t ignore exercise;
- It is a powerful medicine for your heart and arteries
- It strengthens your cardiovascular system allowing your heart to pump more blood with less effort
- It makes your tissues more sensitive to insulin, which mean cells throughout your body more easily absorb and burn blood sugar for energy
- It helps you lower your levels of triglycerides, tiny packages of fat that float around in the bloodstreams
- Exercise also helps to decrease inflammation and prevent blood clotting, which can lead to stroke, heart attack and other problems
- Finally, exercise creates physiological changes in the brain that lead to an increased sense of well being, confidence and improved mood.
Top Five Lifestyle Changes that will Help You to Boost your Immunity and Fight off Infections
Have adequate sleep: Adequate sleep is one of the most important aspects of having a good functioning immune system. Make it a routine to have adequate sleep.
Take small walks every day: Taking small walks, maybe 10 to 15 minute walks in your workspace or your home can have a significant impact on your overall health.
Minimize stress in your life: Engage in activities that will help alleviate stress. Practice meditation, yoga, good social relations, etc. all these will help you to minimize stress in your life.
Drink a lot of water: Water plays many important roles in your body, including your immune system. All the chemical processes that take place in the body require water to function.
Take Nutritional Supplements: There are many nutritional supplements you can include in your diet. The one that has been trusted since ages is vitamin C. Taking 500 milligrams of vitamin C a day is adequate for a properly functioning immune system.