Does Exercise Affect Your Body’s Immunity?

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March 6, 2020
May 1, 2020

With the looming shadow of COVID-19 hovering over our country it’s sending us into a crazed tailspin as we all worry about who will be effected, how fast it might spread, and what we can do about it.

So, from our standpoint we have to ask the question: does exercise help or hinder our bodies’ ability to fight off infections? Many of us who exercise have heard from well-meaning friends, spouses or parents that strenuous exercise will reduce our immune systems, opening us to germs and illness. That idea started from some studies in the late 1980s. But those studies subsequently turned out to have relied too heavily on self-diagnoses from runners about their sniffles.

The latest science suggests that being fit boosts our immune systems, and that even a single workout can amplify and improve our ability to fight off germs.

Here are the 4 major finds that show that exercise improves our immune system:

  • Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.
  • Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before.
  • The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)
  • Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness.

Studies have shown that people who follow an active lifestyle, benefit most from starting (and sticking to) a workout routine.

Need help getting started? Want to boost your immune system?
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P.S. Wash your hands!

Reference: Medline Plus

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