Exercise has plenty of obvious benefits. I’ve gone over a lot of these through different blogs, so make sure to check them out! What I want to go over in this one though, is how it can help to boost your immune system. Before I get too much further, I want to state that this is just my view (backed by a few other people’s opinions and articles), and if you go to google, you will probably find plenty of articles saying the exact opposite to what is below!
So, moving forward, exercise can help to boost your immune system in several different ways! A few of theories are that it does this by;
- Help flush bacteria out of your lungs through increased breathing rate
- Increasing your white blood cell count, as well as helping them to circulate around the body faster, letting them detect diseases and pathogens faster
- Increased body temperature, similar to what happens when you get a fever (which is your body’s way of making itself less favourable for disease growth)
- Reduced levels of stress hormones, which effectively allows your body to recover and repair faster.
Each of these, while only theories, would definitely help to fight off any bugs that you may get. As I said though, it is not certain that (or how) each of these things occurs.
One study (published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine) that helps to support the idea of exercise helping with your immune system, followed a group of 1002 healthy adults aged from 18 to 85 years, over a 12 week period during the US autumn and winter seasons in 2008.
During this study, the participants were examined in all parts of their lives, including their diet, lifestyle and exercise frequency. Over the 12 weeks, they reported on any symptoms arising that could be associated with respiratory illnesses, and their severity. The study found that, during this time, the participants that were regularly exercising were reporting symptoms much less frequently, and when they did, the symptoms were less severe.
What this means, is that your body can fight infections off better when you are fit and healthy, and it only makes sense that this would be the case. When you are fitter, everything works more efficiently. You are effectively making your body better able to handle stress. This means that the rest of your bodily functions take up less of your overall energy when you get sick, and your body can devote more energy to getting better. On top of that, with the increased energy devotion, the immune response is also going to be stronger, as it will also be able to work more efficiently.
For anyone that is wondering as well, the amount of exercise that is required for this level of response doesn’t seem to be huge either, just consistent. Half an hour a day is more than enough to get this sort of result, as this is enough to get a response in each of the areas mentioned right at the start. When this happens regularly, your body just gets better at it, like with everything else.
On the flip side to this though; if you are already sick, the best thing to do is to listen to your body! If you feel like you need to rest, it is most likely because you do. If you are on medication to get better from an illness, then exercise starts to cause problems. A lot of the side effects from things like antibiotics will be similar to the effects of exercising, and combining those both together is not a great idea. Further to this, studies have actually shown an immediate decrease in your immune system during hard exercise, which means you really shouldn’t be pushing yourself too hard is you are already fighting a sickness off!
Outside of this, all of the obvious things we can be doing to improve our recovery revolve around living a healthy lifestyle. This includes not smoking, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking in moderation, getting enough sleep, and minimising your daily stress!
Another study which goes into much further detail is here:
This study goes over everything in detail, and is well worth the read if you want further clarification on how exercising can help boost your immunity!