We know that exercise is good for you, there’s no argument there. It’s great for heart health, brain function, bone strength, emotional health and more.
But did you know that it’s also good for your immune system? That’s right! Exercising can help boost your immune system to keep you healthy and ready to fight off illness.
It’s something that’s all the more important given the current state of the world.
There are a few theories as to why regular exercise may help you stay healthy. Nobody knows exactly how it happens, but based on how our bodies function this is the closest the experts have come to knowing what’s really going on.
The scientific community is still learning about the coronavirus so none of the studies in this report are specific to our current situation. Instead, we’re working off our prior knowledge of how exercise can help boost your immune system against things like the annual flu. (The COVID-19 virus is a type of flu.)
Theory 1: Exercise may help flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways. This prevents bacteria from taking root in your respiratory system and causing further issues. This could reduce your chances of getting a flu, a cold, or pneumonia.
Theory 2: Stress takes a toll on your entire body and that includes your immune system. Exercise slows your body’s release of stress hormones. This helps strengthen your immune system and decreases your chances of getting an illness.
When your body isn’t releasing as many stress hormones, they are unable to weaken your immune system and leave you susceptible.
Theory 3: During exercise your body temperature rises. This rise in temperature keeps bacteria from growing. This is the same reason that you get a fever. It is how your body fights infection and keeps it from growing.
Your body temperature rises both during and right after exercise, which will help to fight any possible infections.
Theory 4: Your body experiences a change in your white blood cells and antibodies when you exercise. Your white blood cells are your immune system’s soldiers. They are the cells that fight infection within your body.
When you exercise, blood is pumped through your body more quickly than when you are resting. This means that your white blood cells can detect illness faster. Faster detection means your body can more efficiently take the steps to protect you from further damage.
As we mentioned above, researchers may not know exactly how it happens, but we know that it does.
A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Immunology shows that “leading a physically active lifestyle reduces the incidence of communicable and non-communicable diseases.” This implies that your immune system is enhanced by a regular exercise routine.
This study, performed by scientists at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, really gives us all a reason to get up and go for a walk!
Then, a 2011 study tells us that moderate exercise training actually causes a reduction in incidence of upper-respiratory illnesses.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that yes, exercise is good for your immune system and may help against the coronavirus…but not if you work yourself into the ground.
If you already get regular moderate exercise, you are doing what you need to do. More isn’t better in this scenario. Wearing yourself out can have the opposite effect on your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.
Following the Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines recommendations will provide you with what you need to help keep yourself healthy.
Their guidelines are as follows:
To break this down a little bit, moderate exercise can be time on your elliptical or treadmill, a brisk walk, or swimming if you want a lower impact option. If you opt for vigorous exercise, going for a run is an easy way to get that exercise in.
This can be challenging given the current coronavirus crisis, but do you best with what you have available to you.
The key is to aim for 30 minutes a day. However, keep in mind that you don’t have to do the full 30 minutes in one session. If you have a busy schedule, as many of us do, take five minutes breaks and go for a quick walk.
The most important part is that you’re doing it. This will help keep your immune system, and all of your other systems, in tip top shape and ready to face each day.
Exercising is just one piece of the puzzle for keeping your immune system in good shape.
Adequate recovery is very important. Like we said before, overworking yourself will have the opposite effect. You don’t need to be pushing yourself to the limit and you shouldn’t be exercising all the time.
Sleep is key! You have to rest and give your body a chance to recuperate and repair itself for the next day.
Make sure you keep up with your micronutrient intake. Everybody immediately goes for the Vitamin C, but there are a few others that you should keep in mind as well.
Vitamin E is excellent for helping fight off infection, same with Vitamin A. Iron and Zinc are two minerals that bolster your immune system and circulation system.
You can get these vitamins and minerals in your diet or supplement with vitamins if needed. Always make sure that you only take as directed and ask your doctor if you have any questions.
Don’t forget to get in your 30 minutes of exercise each day. You’ll be helping your body, your mind and your immune system.
While we’re dealing with this coronavirus crisis, you might want to take advantage of some of the special sales that are going on with at-home fitness equipment.
For instance, right now online retailer NordicTrack helps you pay for a machine with their 0% APR financing offer. Take 36 months to pay off your bill. You can also get free shipping and benefit from a risk free 30 day trial.
Horizon is also offering financing options. They have free shipping for all of their home cardio equipment. Plus, you can get 0% APR with credit approval.
ProForm recently came out with the new Carbon line of machines. You can even get the Carbon E7 for FREE if you pay just $39/mon iFit Membership for 3 years. ProForm also has FREE shipping and a 30 day money back guarantee.
Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan. John P. Campbell and James E. Turner; 2018
Nieman, David C. “Moderate exercise boosts the immune system.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 1.5 (1997): 14-19.
Nieman, David C. “Moderate Exercise Improves Immunity and Decreases Illness Rates.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, vol. 5, no. 4, July 2011, pp. 338–345, doi:10.1177/1559827610392876