Exercise and immunity is a hot topic, and researchers have been studying it for years. On the one hand, researchers say vigorous exercise without adequate recovery may make you more susceptible to illness, but another study in 2018 claims to debunk the myth that vigorous exercise suppresses immunity. A recent analysis published in the international journal Exercise Immunology Review found that regular, moderate exercise is beneficial for a healthy immune system.
Since the evidence is mixed and also highly dependent on what type of exercise you do and for how long, how often you do it – I decided to tap the expert advice of an infectious disease doctor and expert to shed light on the subject. Below you will find her insights on the connection between the immune system and exercise, as well as an overview of what science has to say on the subject.
How Exercise Affects Your Immune System
When people say that "exercise stimulates your immune system," they most likely refer to the short-term effect that exercise has on your white blood cells, the cells needed to fight infection. "Any kind of stress on the body – be it a workout or infection, or extreme environmental conditions – the normal response our bodies have to emphasize is to increase the number of white blood cells in the blood. They are there to provide a kind of patrol for anything that could be harmful, all toxins and anything that could cause harm, "said Dr. Sandra Kesh, who specializes in infectious diseases and internal medicine.
Kesh also said that your training doesn't have to be as strenuous to elicit the immune response, so almost any training activity you do for at least 15 minutes a day can help.
In addition to the effect exercise has on your white blood cell count, it can also provide many other health benefits that are all added together to help keep you from getting sick. “Getting into aprovides some protection against getting the infection (COVID-19), a serious form of the infection, and helps mental health. We know that stress is a major problem is for the immune system and it really hinders our body from fighting infections and so exercise is a good way to control stress, "says Dr. Kesh.
The debate on intensive training and immune suppression
Health experts such as Dr. Jordan Metzl and other researchers say you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to exercise. These experts say that doing long, intense workouts, especially without adequate rest andcan be bad news for your immune system and even make you more susceptible to illness. A 2019 study shows that it's clear that exercise can improve health and the immune system, but periods of intense exercise can put you at greater risk of disease. Other researchers have debated the subject, going back and forth about exactly what effect intensive training can have on immune health.
No matter how you look at your fitness routine, we know thatis bad news for many reasons (and probably for your immune system) and prioritizes rest and is key. To be safe, the best thing to do is to do your workouts, but don't set yourself up too hard, make sure you take plenty of rest days and time to recover. Dr. Kesh also suggests that now is not the time to train for a or any other extreme fitness event where your body has to go through a lot of stress and exertion. Save that for when the pandemic is over and prioritize moderate, regular exercise instead.
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How much exercise you really need to stay good
You absolutely don't need to run a marathon to stay healthy stay, and you don't & # 39; It is not even necessary to exercise for an hour a day. Experts such as Dr. Kesh and the Department of Health and Human Services say you only need about 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week to stay healthy.
"We know that people who exercise, even moderately 15-20 minutes a day, get sick less often most days of the week (5-6 days). There was a study that showed fewer sick days a year and when they got sick they weren't that sick compared to people who were mostly sedentary, "says Dr. Kesh.
" I like to follow what the Department of Health and Human Services says, that's 150 minutes per week for moderate exercise. If you train vigorously, then 75 minutes per week. And ideally, spread that out so you get some exercises most days. That amount of exercise keeps your immune system trained but not overloaded. So if it gets some kind of foreign intruder, it can respond, but it can't be overwhelmed, "says Kesh.
Exercise and COVID-19 Symptoms and Recovery
As Kesh mentioned earlier, patients who have COVID-19 and followed an exercise routine before they were ill have less severe symptoms and recover faster.
"One of the things we find is that a complication in people with severe infections is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a lung condition, and it is common in people who don't exercise and their lung capacity is not that extensive as people who exercise regularly, "said Dr. Kesh. Dr. Kesh also added that experts don't fully understand what's going on in the lungs for people with severe COVID-19 infections, but the healthier that person was before they became infected, the better the outcome.
"We know the healthier you get an infection, the more likely you are to recover and recover faster. So your physiological starting status is one of the biggest predictors of where you will end up after the infection has passed. And so I tell my patients: now is the time to quit smoking, now it is time to start an exercise routine, now it is time to eatbecause by doing those things you can Fight infection better if you understand. "
As for the recovery of COVID-19, Dr. Kesh to take things very slowly once you feel like exercising after you've had the virus. You don't want to overdo it and try to jump back into your routine with full force. "Take it one day at a time and work your way up (when you recover). But going back to a workout routine definitely helps recovery, as long as you do it step-by-step and don't bite off more than you can chew too early because the disease is going on again can occur and you can start to feel worse and put yourself back, "Kesh said.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional if you have questions about a medical condition or health goals.