Supporting Your Immune System with Exercise

You’ve probably heard plenty of tips on “boosting” your immune system, and you might have noticed that store shelves that used to house vitamin C are now bare. You might be wondering what else you can do to stay healthy.

Aside from proper nutrition, hydration, stress avoidance, and sleep, exercise can also help to boost immune system function. Yes, exercise! But how does it work, exactly?

Regular exercise boosts immunity. 

It appears that exercise mobilizes your T cells, a type of white blood cell that fights infection. This is true for cardiovascular exercise as well as weight training. Active T cells can help to fight off pathogens before you even feel symptoms of an illness, or help you to recover when you do get sick.

Unfortunately, obesity can contribute to immunosuppression (meaning you get sick more easily or more often). Exercise can reverse this effect and help you to stay healthy, even if you don’t actually lose any weight.

And yes, regular exercise can actually decrease your odds of developing a respiratory infection. Those who exercise, even moderately, stand a lower chance of contracting this type of illness.

But can you exercise too much? 

You might also wonder if there can be too much of a good thing, and the answer is yes. Those who exercise to “exhaustive” levels, such as the type of training necessary to run a marathon or compete in the Ironman competition, can actually stress their immune systems. These athletes often experience mild colds or sore throats during the “taper” end of their training.

What is the right amount of exercise? 

Most of us don’t train at that level, so we don’t need to worry about exercise stressing our immune systems. To boost your immune system with exercise, aim for a moderate degree of difficulty. Exercise should feel challenging to you, but should not be exhausting. For most people this means 30 minutes to an hour per day, four or five days per week. You do do more than that, or increase your difficulty level slightly, as you feel capable.

For more advice on the proper amount of exercise to help you meet your goals, or to learn about a weight loss plan, give us a call. We can help you set healthy goals that are appropriate for your body type and level of health.


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