Exercise and the immune system. Keeping fit to keep the bugs and viruses at bay

Updated: Apr 6

  • Limited evidence exists to support the claim that exercise suppresses the immune system.

  • Exercise per se does not heighten the risk of opportunistic infections.

  • Exercise can strengthen the immune responses to bacterial, viral, and other antigens.

  • Evidence shows that regular physical activity and frequent exercise might limit or delay ageing of the immune system. In fact it strengthens it even in older populations.

With the advent of COVID-19 people are unsure what they should be doing regarding their long term health.

Obviously we should all be aware of the importance of:

  • Social distancing.

  • hand washing,

  • personal hygiene regarding coughing and sneezing, etc. If you can't remember how to wash your hands check this out :

So what else can you do to enhance your immune systems defence ?

It's long been thought that acute bouts of exercise suppress your immune system as an immediate to short term effect of exercise. This has often been referred to as the "open window" and relates to studies done in the 80's and 90's, ( remember them ? shoulder pads, big hair don't care).

The open window theory proposed that immediately after exercise the following happened:

  • infection risk is increased after an acute bout of prolonged and vigorous aerobic exercise.

  • acute bouts of vigorous exercise can lead to a temporary reduction to immune cells resulting in a higher risk of opportunistic infections.

  • short term decreases following exercise in the number of peripheral blood immune cells, which occurs in the hours following vigorous exercise, represents a period of immune suppression.

Over time these observations have been contradicted and have been explored further.

What an acute bout of exercise can do for your immune system.

Exercise studies have shown that single bouts and consistent exercise have shown to have a positive effect on the strength of the immune system.

This has been shown across the young, middle age and elderly age groups and using exercise from sustained cardio to high intensity training.

What long term exercise can do for your immune system.

Probably of great importance is the effect of exercise on the immune system in the elderly population is just as strong. Unlike the smaller improvements we see in muscle strength and aerobic fitness as we get older , especially after the 70 year old mark the immune system appears to respond in a much stronger fashion.

In fact their response may actually be more beneficial than that of younger populations…boom take that millennial's.

As such exercise should be encouraged.

Here is a great way to get some mix of aerobic and rehab / strength exercise in one session.

In summary;

In these times home based workouts or outdoor activities adhering to social distancing are essential.

Leading an active lifestyle is likely to be beneficial, rather than detrimental, to immune function, which may have implications for health and disease in older age.

Check out our facebook page, and other blogs on this site for ideas.

we will have a download guide for you here as well as programs for you.

Stay safe, keep healthy and laugh alot.



Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan

John P. Campbell and James E. Turner. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5911985/#

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