By keeping your immune system healthy you increase your chance of repelling viruses such as COVID-19 and others. Exercise remains one of the most effective exercises and science fully supports this. Exercise makes immune cells more effective, says Business News Times. It allows them to perform exercises that increase blood flow, reduce stress and inflammation, and strengthen antibodies.
Like a healthy diet, regular exercise contributes to overall health and a healthy immune system. A 2019 report in the journal Sports and Health Science found that moderate exercise boosts immune system defenses and metabolic health. Science reported a recent analysis published in the Journal of Exercise and Immunology Review.
A brisk walk reigns supreme for Immune System
Exercise has many proven health benefits such as reducing cardiovascular disease risk, improving mood and a strong immune system. A scientific review of exercise in the journal Sport and Health Science has also found that exercise can increase your immune response, reduce the risk of disease and reduce inflammation. The study published in the journal concluded that moderate to vigorous exercise of less than 60 minutes can help strengthen the immune response and reduce the risk of disease and the level of inflammation in the body.
One way to improve immune function is to boost the general blood flow to make it easier for immune cells and other infected molecules to travel throughout the body. Nieman says that 30- to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a day (think brisk walking, cycling or light running) seems to be the best way to optimize immune function. While most people are well informed that exercise promotes better mood, many are amazed to discover what works to strengthen the immune system.
Pumping iron helps, too
On the other hand, 75 minutes or more of intense exercise may be exaggerated, Nieman says. Exercise can help prevent disease, but it does not eradicate existing colds and flu. Nieman also says weight lifting has proven effective, but more studies are needed.
A recent study found that exercising at least five days a week reduces the risk of upper respiratory tract infection compared to sedentary exercise. In fact, animal studies suggest that hard training during a cold or flu can make things worse. Those who are already ill follow with exercise to alleviate their symptoms (32, 41).
According to a study of more than 1,000 adults in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2010, people who exercised for at least 20 minutes a day for five or more days a week reported 43% fewer days with the upper respiratory tract infections and symptoms compared to nonsedentary individuals. A recent study in the journal Aging Cells found that people who had cycled earlier in their lives had more immune cells because of their muscle quotient. Stimulating the production of immune cells and other proteins secreted by muscles can help protect against cancer.
Don’t fear intensity (in moderation)
According to a study by the University of Copenhagen, the IL-6 protein interleukin-6 plays a role in deflecting natural killer cells away from tumor sites during training. In addition to improving exercise time, exercise increases exchange of important white blood cells between peripheral tissues that support the immune response of the body and blood circulation and lymphatic vessels. Exercise increases the lymph flow in the blood when muscles contract, and it increases the blood flow to immune cells, causing them to move faster and in greater numbers in the body, said study author David Nieman, D.R.P.H., professor in the Department of Biology at Appalachian State University and the Director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the university.
Exercise also helps to recruit specialised immune cells, such as natural killer cells (T cells), which find and exterminate pathogens and viruses. A study published in Medicine’Science in Sports and Exercise reports that a 30-minute brisk walking session increases the natural killer cells, which are different types of white blood cells that are considered an important part of the defense structure of the immune system. Exercise also gives antibodies, or “white blood cells,” a boost, allowing them to circulate throughout the body, where they can detect diseases faster than if you don’t move.
Soak in some sun
The full extent of how exercise benefits the immune system is not entirely clear, but the National Institutes of Health says that when we exercise, antibody and white blood cells circulate faster in the body. A recent review published in the Journal of Sports Health Science found that regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle can improve the monitoring of immune cell activity in the blood for infections. While the full extent of the benefits exercise has on the immune system is not clear, the Nationwide Institute makes it clear that we exercise because it causes antibodies and white blood cells to circulate at high speed through the human body.
Researchers are also studying the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress and other factors on the immune response of animals and humans. Dr Campbell and Dr Turner say that while short-term exercise can help the immune system locate and deal with pathogens, long-term regular exercise can slow down the changes that happen to the body as we age and reduce the risk of infection. Regular daily exercise during a time when much of the world is isolated can play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
To explain the link between exercise and immunity, we scoured science and spoke to experts studying the effects of exercise on the immune system. In a new article this month, leading experts discussed whether exercise affects the immune system negatively or positively, including Dr. Turner and Dr. Campbell, and why athletes get more infections than the general population.