Did you know that by participating in physical activity and exercise, you are helping yourself fight off germs? By exercising at a moderate intensity, you are boosting your immune system and thereby fighting off illnesses. Other ways to help your immune system is to eat a healthy diet and reduce stress.1 Health care professionals can say with confidence that exercising regularly will help their patients boost their immune system and result in better health.
This does not mean you should go to the gym for as long as possible and work the hardest you possibly can when you start to feel sick. High intensity exercise will actually compromise the immune system’s ability to fight off the germs. Instead, try participating in moderate intensity exercise for 30-45 minutes three to five days a week. This will allow you to further enhance your immune system.1 You could go on a faster-paced walk, ride your bike, or hop on the elliptical to meet these recommendations. Most studies look at the effects of aerobic exercise (like the examples just mentioned) rather than resistance exercise when studying the effects of exercise on immunity. Studies that have been done with resistance training have shown no benefits, but no negative side effects either.1
Not only will exercising help to fight flues and colds but also cancers. Regular exercise can prevent cancer and increase the survivor rate in those who already have cancer. In fact, it may reduce all-cause cancer rates by 45%.1 That’s surely a high enough percentage to get me moving! Along with cancer, pneumonia/influenza, septicaemia and nephritis are among the top 10 leading causes of death in people over the age of 65 in the United States.2 Therefore, it is of utmost importance to keep the immune system healthy throughout the aging process. Doing something as simple as staying active has the ability to do just that! Exercising regularly is associated with numerous physiological benefits that help out the immune system: enhanced vaccination responses, increased neutrophil (type of white blood cell) phagocytic activity, lowered inflammatory response to bacterial challenge, and many more.1
Those that feel healthier are healthier. One study found that “80% to 90% of regular exercisers perceive themselves as less vulnerable to viral illnesses compared to sedentary peers.”1 This is all just one more reason to stay active and continue to exercise. It doesn’t matter which form it takes, just keep moving!
- Hart, J. (2014). The positive impact of exercise on immunity. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 20(2), 88-90. 10.
- Simpson, R., Lowder, T., Spielmann, G., Bigley, A., LaVoy, E., & Kunz, H. (2012). Exercise and the aging immune system. Ageing Research Reviews, 11(3), 404-420.