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How Exercise Boosts Your Immune System

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How Exercise Boosts Your Immune System

Did you know that one of the most effective ways to boost your immune system is through exercise? That’s right. Exercising regularly helps your body stay healthy to fight viruses and infections.

At Farrell’s, we teach our members how to take care of their bodies and minds through positive habits like regular strength training and healthy nutrition.

How you take care of yourself today is how your immune system will take care of you tomorrow.

Exercise Lowers Your Risk of Health Problems

When we engage in regular exercise, we strengthen our body and support many physiological and biological functions.

That’s partly why studies show that individuals who regularly exercise have a:

  • 35% decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 50% decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity
  • Fewer age-related conditions like sarcopenia
  • Fewer mental health problems
  • Better immune function
  • Longer life expectancy

It’s safe to say, exercise makes you physically and mentally boosted. But how does exercise boost immune function? Let’s go over the science.

5 Ways Exercise Boosts Immune Function

1. Increases Blood Flow
Exercising increases the heart rate to increase blood flow around your body, which strengthens heart health and lung capacity, so that you can more efficiently transport oxygenated blood around your body.

2. Removes Bacteria
As a side effect of this, you are supporting the removal of bacteria from the lungs and airways; which helps to prevent lingering pathogens that may lead to infection further down the road.

3. Increases Immune Cell Concentration
As shown in a study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science in 2019, when we exercise, antibodies and white blood cells (WBCs) circulate more vigorously and in higher concentrations. WBCs are our immune system cells, so increasing them helps to detect and fight infection more effectively.

This is supported in a 1998 study that shows an inverse relationship between exercise and illness risk. This is partly due to the increase in immune cell activity, and partly due to the powerful anti-inflammatory effect of exercise.

4. Fights Inflammation
When you exercise, you place your body under brief periods of stress and inflammation that result in powerful anti-inflammatory responses.

This response is complex, mediated through multiple pathways that signal several biochemical changes including:

  • The release of muscle myokines that stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory molecules like interleukin-10 (human cytokine synthesis inhibitory factor).
  • An increase in fatty acid metabolism and other lipid super-pathway metabolites.
  • Improved oxygenation as mentioned above. These all contribute to reduced inflammation and enhanced immunity.

5. Prevents Bacteria Growth
As we exercise, our internal body temperature increases. The incremental temperature increase during exercise has been shown in a 2011 study to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria by increasing lymphocytes like CD8+ cytotoxic T-cell, a lymphocyte that destroys virus-infected cells.

Research has also shown that a higher body temperature helps immune cells function better, this is partly why we have a high temperature when we are sick—our body is trying to fight infection more effectively!

These unique and powerful responses that occur during and post-exercise help to flush out bacteria, increase antioxidant production, regulate inflammation, and fight pathogens. So rather than skipping your workout for fear of getting sick, use exercise as a nonnegotiable tool to boost your immunity.

If you’re looking for a motivating workout that’s more than just “going to the gym,” try a free week on us at your local Farrell’s.

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