How does exercise affect our immune system?

One of the most important things we can focus on in 2020 is supporting our immune systems. With both COVID-19 and the flu season upon us, it’s more important now than ever to tend to habits that will help us in the long term.

Exercise has been historically seen as an immune system suppressant, but the opposite appears to be true.

Also remember, in addition to exercise and our other recommendations, one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy during a pandemic is by keeping a 6ft distance from those around you, regular hand hygiene and wearing a mask whenever possible.

Changes to immune system due to exercise 

Exercise is good for many long-term health conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease; however, there appears to be a benefit even for acute conditions like colds, flus and other viruses like COVID-19.

Getting regular exercise can help flush bacteria out and keep your airways clear and less susceptible to getting sick.

In addition to flushing bacteria, after a bout of exercise, antibodies, molecules that help you fight immune system threats, will change the way they behave in your body. It’s not confirmed that this exercise-induced change will prevent illness however it is speculated that because more antibodies are circulating around, they could potentially be able to detect a threat sooner and, ultimately, protect you.

A third way exercise supports your immune system is by helping you reduce stress. Both at a mental health level and at a physiological level. It’s no surprise that we feel good after exercise but exercise really does have an impact on our stress hormones which are known to be immune system suppressants.

Other considerations: Sleep, Nutrition, Stress

While exercise is great for a number of reasons there are some additional considerations and lifestyle changes that can’t be ignored when caring for your immune function.

Sleep is our time to rest and regenerate, and that includes our immune system. One of the best gifts you can give to your body is by getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep every day.

In addition to sleep, we should pay attention to what we put into our bodies. Nutrition can’t be ignored as the vitamins and minerals in food helps run all our body systems including the immune system.

And finally, stress can be considered a threat to our immune system which is why you may find yourelf getting the sniffles after a difficult or stressful month. With that, try to manage your stress as best as possible and seek support and help if you are struggling.

In Conclusion

Exercise is good for you, pandemic or not. While other factors also play into how our immune systems function we should welcome regular exercise as a preventative tool in our toolbox.