Part of living a healthy life means incorporating exercise daily. Great for cardiovascular as well as mental health, exercise also has a positive effect on the immune system. As a result, regular exercise helps to boost the immune system to prevent you from getting sick.
With the current coronavirus crisis, people are left to sit on the couch and stay indoors. But it is recommended to get outside for some fresh air while practicing social distancing. It is also encouraged to go for a walk, run, or bike ride to continue daily exercise during this time.
And despite the closure of gyms, there are plenty of fitness videos and apps that instruct workouts at home.
We already know that exercise is good for our health. It reduces the risk of obesity, decreases anxiety and depression, and has a major role in heart health. “Exercise also lowers levels of the inflammatory cytokines that cause the 'inflamm-aging' that is thought to play a role in conditions including cardiovascular disease; type 2 diabetes; Alzheimer's disease; osteoporosis and some cancers,” one study writes.
Working Out And Warding Off Germs
According to this study, regular exercise can increase T-cells, the white blood cells that are essential to the immune system. These are the cells that trigger immune responses to foreign germs in the body.
Exercise stimulates the exchange of leukocytes, which are also white blood cells that fight disease, between the circulatory system and tissues. It also improves the anti-pathogen activity of tissue as immune cells recirculate in the body. That means the body is more equipped to fight germs and infections.
While research continues to emerge on the link between exercise and immunity, there is research to support the fact that a workout does have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Consequently, it counters the process of certain diseases like atherosclerosis and some types of cancers.
Endurance Athletes And Immunity
Studies from the ‘80s found that marathoners had an increase in illnesses which made many to believe that endurance activities harmed the immune system. However, these studies were flawed because most who reported illness had only slight irritations to their airways, not infections like respiratory illness.
It was later found that endurance athletes have fewer sick days per year.
Another study found that immune cells in rodents traveled to the lungs and other vulnerable parts of the body after endurance running, protecting it from infections during the exercise. A different study also found that mice fought infections better than their sedentary counterparts parts after a run.
There are contradictory studies that found immunity-boosting cells died after an endurance-based workout, most likely liked to stress within the body. This then leaves the body more vulnerable to potentially fall ill.
The takeaway here is to not think that exercise alone will prevent the body from getting sick. It may boost immune health, but those who are new to a workout routine might not get the same positive effects if they just began endurance exercise.
Age And Lifestyle Factors
As we age, the immune system response decreases. This is likely to a decrease in T-cells. The elderly are much more at risk for infections and illnesses like cancer, as well as being at risk for a respiratory illness like COVID-19.
This is why exercise remains as important as we age. There are ways that the elderly can continue to be active to boost immune health such as going for daily walks, yoga, and strength training exercises.
Certain lifestyle factors also play a role in immune system health. A person who eats a well- balanced, nutritious diet and exercises regularly is more likely to have a healthier body, thus have cells that are ready to ward off a threat.
Other immune system boosting tips besides exercise includes other healthy lifestyle habits like not smoking and eating a diet filled with vegetables and fruits. Drink alcohol in moderation if consumed and make sure to get enough sleep. Avoid touching your face and wash hands often. When at the gym make sure to clean equipment before and after use. Wash hands immediately after touching weights and other equipment when the workout is done.
Sander R, Exercise boosts immune response, NCBI
David C.Nieman Laurel M.Wentz, The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system, Journal of Sport and Health Science, 05
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, T cell cytology
G.R. Adams, F.P. Zaldivar, D.M. Nance, E. Kodesh, S. Radom-Aizik, D.M. Cooper, Exercise and leukocyte interchange among central circulation, lung, spleen, and muscle
Brain Behav Immun, 25 (2011), pp. 658-666
John P. Campbell, James E. Turner, Debunking the Myth of Exercise)Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the lifespan
Gretchen Renolds, How Exercise May Affect Your Immunity, The New York Times
How to boost your immune system, Haravrd Health Publishing