The moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity is a great habit that everyone should cultivate in order to keep fit and healthy. It’s proven by many studies that regular exercise has a powerful effect on the immune system, helping maintain optimal health levels, prevent and control many diseases.
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, it’s not just a recommendation. It is a must to have at least a minimum amount of exercise, depending on your age and conditions.
However, when people add exercise to their daily routine, they may mistakenly think that the more you work out, the better you can fight off sickness and boost your immunity.
In fact, adding just modest amounts of exercise to your daily routine can have a profound effect on your physical and mental health. BUT exercising too much can be just as bad as not exercising at all.
Benefits of Exercise for the Immune System
1. Removal of Toxins and Germs from the Body
Moderate exercise is an effective detoxification(1) method. It helps improve blood flow and flush harmful bacteria and toxins out of your body through the excretory system via urine and sweat.
Also, a rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria overgrowth and help fight infection better.
Briefly speaking, mild or moderate exercise is an effective method to protect yourself from a cold, seasonal flu and some other illnesses(2).
2. Increased Production of White Blood Cells
When you have a brisk walk or a bike ride, it gets your heart rate up. Your body takes it as a physiological stressor, which results in the production and faster circulation of white blood cells(3) such as neutrophils and lymphocytes. White blood cells are like powerful warriors that rush in to detect harmful substances and prevent illness.
3. Increased Capacity of Lungs
Regular exercise helps keep your lungs healthy. It helps lungs eliminate airborne viruses and bacteria, preventing or reducing the severity of respiratory symptoms.
A study(4) showed that mild or moderate-intensity exercise, performed at least 3 times per week, may positively influence the immune system and help prevent complications of respiratory tract infections.
4. Reduced Stress Hormone Production
Regular exercise reduces the release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Instead, it stimulates the production of endorphins(5), which are able to block pain perception, elevate mood, and reduce your stress. Sometimes, all you need to experience stress relief is having a walk in the park.
If you build your own personal fitness routine, you’ll notice that each proper workout is accompanied by feelings of relaxation and optimism. By exercising regularly, you can lower stress hormones, improve your mood, and boost your immunity.
Note: If you experience symptoms of hormonal imbalance, such as weight gain, fatigue, or mood swings, it is recommended to assess your cortisol levels.
5. Healthy Weight, Strong Muscles and Healthy Bones
Practicing regular physical activity combined with a healthy diet supports a fast metabolism, helps reduce muscle loss, maintain strength, and healthy weight. (6)
Exercise promotes the release of hormones that help your muscles absorb amino acids. It helps reduce the breakdown of muscles(7). Also, the research shows that endurance and resistance exercise may significantly improve bone health(8) and prevent fracture and disability.
How Long Your Workout Should Last
20-Minute Workouts for Beginners
Exercising for 20 minutes may sound like a warm-up. However, for beginners, that may be a first and important step to a healthier version of yourself. Even 20 minutes of brisk walk or jog can help boost your immune system.
The research shows that 20-minute workout sessions like treadmill exercise may reduce inflammation and boost your immune system.
The Recommended Duration by WHO
The World Health Organization(9) recommends adults to exercise up to 300 minutes per week. It means 45 minutes is an optimal duration for a daily workout session.
Exercise the Right Way
Listen to Your Body
|How much to exercise can vary from person to person. You have to assess your physical capabilities and start increasing the duration and intensity of the workout gradually.
Note: Overtraining is a bad thing. It may cause inflammation and cause immune suppression. Training for more than 90 minutes a day may overstress your body and lead to a negative impact on your immune system. If you want to increase the amount of exercise, beat your personal record, challenge yourself by accomplishing a marathon, it’s better to consult your coach and a physician practicing sports medicine.
Different Exercise Types to Boost Immunity
- Moderate Physical Activity: Daily 20 to 30-minute walks, walking, bowling, active household chores.
- Vigorous Aerobics: Jogging, aerobic dance, cycling, stair stepper, swimming.
- High-Intensity Interval Training: Jumping rope, sprints, burpees, squat thrusts, fast mountain climbers.
- Strength Training: Deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, walking lunges, jumping Jacks.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 150 minutes per week.
- Don’t overtrain. It can cause harm and inflammation.
- Regardless of what type of exercise you choose, recovery is crucial to support your immune system(10).
Except for regular exercise, make sure to follow a healthy diet, have a restful sleep, and practice stress-reducing exercises. This way, you’ll manage to strengthen your immune system and protect yourself against a variety of diseases.
About the Author:
Michael Smith specializes in Digestion and Hormonal dysfunction which is often the cause of many people’s health complaints, and they may not even realize it.