We already know that exercise brings us a host of wide-reaching wellness benefits, but researchers have now identified some surprising links between immunity and exercise. It turns out that pumping iron in the gym, or going for a jog in the park, doesn’t just make your muscles stronger. It even strengthens your immune system.
The Link Between Immunity and Exercise: 7 Surprising Benefits You Need to Know Today
First, exercise helps you to maintain a healthier body weight. And this isn’t just about a number on the scale, or fitting your favorite pair of jeans, or achieving a much-vaunted “beach body.”
According to the Obesity Action Coalition, studies on both humans as well as on animals have found that being overweight impairs your immune system’s ability to respond to infections.
Specifically, obesity has been found to reduce your immune cells’ functions, impairs your killer cells, and even reduced cytokine production. Cytokine are important substances secreted by your immune system cells.
You see this in a variety of scenarios. For example, obese individuals are more at risk of respiratory diseases, warns a study published in the International Journal of General Medicine. And obese people are more at risk of secondary infections when they are hospitalized.
Second, when your personal trainer tells you to “sweat it out,” that may be literally true when it comes to immunity and exercise. “Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways,” explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine. “This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.”
Third, exercise improves circulation. As it helps your body pump fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients through your system, that same circulatory boost assists your white blood cells and circulates them through your body faster. This speeds up your immune system’s chances of identifying an incoming infection, and fighting off that infection.
Fourth, when it comes to immunity and exercise, regular workouts help your body to better take in essential nutrients, according to a report last year published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science. The researchers specifically pointed out how that nutritional uptake led to increased support of your immune strength.
That same study found that exercise was linked with immune system regulation, helping to reduce the immune system dysfunction that often accompanies aging and getting older. Aging has been strongly associated with a weaker immune system, which is why more and more researchers are investigating the effects of aging.
For instance, as you get older, your body produces fewer thymic proteins. These proteins are critical for a strong immune system, and for “training” your immune cells to respond to threats and disease. Regular exercise, along with taking a thymic protein supplement such as immune-boosting BioPro-Plus 500, work in synergy to help enhance immunity no matter your age.
Sixth, regular exercise improves sleep and reduces stress. Lack of sleep is associated with a weaker immune system, as is chronic stress (the stress hormone cortisol hampers your immune system). Thus, exercise doesn’t just contribute to a better feeling of health and well-being, but it indirectly reduces your risk of getting sick.
Seventh, working out raises your body temperature. “The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing,” points out the U.S. National Library of Medicine. “This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)”
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
Talk to your doctor and a certified coach about the right fitness regimen for you. However, most adults should aim for approximately 150 minutes of moderate-level aerobic activity per week. Even if running or jogging are a challenge for you, consider a hike or fast-paced walk.
But aerobic exercise isn’t the only goal. You also want to strengthen your bones and muscles with impact-based exercises and strength training. Most professionals suggest we should strive to exercise all of our major muscle groups at least twice a week. This could be done through weight training, but if mobility is an issue for you, you could opt for more gentle resistance chair exercises you can do at home.