By Phalen Meyer, MPH, Lifestyle Consultant at the Roseville Livea Center
How does that saying go, “moderate exercise a day can keep the doctor away”? Well, that may not be the saying, but studies show that moderate exercise can boost our immune system, reduce the number of colds you get each year, and can expedite a cold’s recovery time1. Exercise can boost your immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) in your system for a period of time through each exercise session3. White blood cells are an essential part of the immune system because they are the cells that help fight off infections from foreign invaders in our body such as bacteria, viruses, and germs2.
How can exercise reduce the number of colds you get each year? It can encourage the production of T-cells while releasing muscle cytokines that all aid in reducing infection. Not only does activity stimulate T-cells, but in the process, exercise helps keep inflammatory cell production at bay. The more inflammation present, the higher the chance of prolonging and offsetting infection.
Moderate exercise, such as a brisk 30-minute walk 5 times a week, can expedite a cold’s recovery time1,4. In 2004, a study was performed on adults over the age of 64 on the effects of moderate exercise training on the response to influenza immunization. 14 adults aged 64 and older were assigned to the exercise group, while the other 13 adults 64 and older were considered the control group. The findings from the study concluded that those who exercised experienced a more significant antibody response to influenza immunization3. These findings also suggest that exercise can even improve our immune system as we age!
There is still much study that needs to be done on the immune system and its relationship with exercise, but substantial evidence does point to the fact that the exercise has some impact on the immune system. Exercise has proven to enhance immune activity response with the regulation of leukocytes (white blood cells) and T-cells, which contribute to the response to foreign invaders. Lastly, exercise has proven to contribute to a quicker response to immunization such as influenza and pneumonia3. So, remember that when your immune system is asking, “is there antibody out there,” you can reassure your immune system that there are many antibody producing agents out there such as the treadmill, spring cleaning, our faithful Get Up and Move exercise calendar on the Livea website, and many more helpful aids. Just a few doses of movement each week and your T-cells and leukocytes will be thanking you, and, better yet, will be your first line of defense.
- Simpson R. Ph.D.American College of Sports Medicine. Exercise, Immunity and the COVID-19 Pandemic. 2020. https://www.acsm.org/home/featured-blogs—homepage/acsm-blog/2020/03/30/exercise-immunity-covid-19-pandemic
- Biology and structure of leukocyte β2 integrins and their role in inflammation [version 1; peer review: 3 approved]. 2016. https://f1000research.com/articles/5-2433
- Nieman, Wentz L.M. Journal of Sport and Health Science. The compelling line between physical activity and the body’s defense system. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6523821/#bib0117
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm