Does exercise weaken or boost your immune system?


Every day our immune system protect us from a lot of pathogenic microbes and viruses that we are constantly exposed to.
Immune function can be influenced by many factors such as genetics, stress, aging, nutrition, sleep and physical activity level.
Recent researches have revealed that a person’s level of physical activity influences the risk of some infections, specially upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).
URTI is an illness caused usually by a virus or bacteria which involves transmission through the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, sinuses, pharynx, or larynx. Common cold, sinusitis and tonsillitis are examples of URTIs.
In fact, when you do moderate intensity exercise, regularly, your susceptibility to illness reduces because this type of exercise boosts your immune system.
Regular exercise increases white blood cell (body’s immune system cells that fight pathogens) function and also both directly and indirectly decreases stress hormones.
On the other hand, strenuous exercise causes increased levels of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisone) which suppress white blood cell function and have negative effect on the function of immune system.
That is why vulnerability to infections increases for a period following prolonged moderate to high intensity exercise or an unaccustomed high intensity exercise session.
Another possible reason for higher risk of getting URTIs after high intensity exercise is higher rate and depth of breathing during exercise and subsequently, higher exposure to pathogenic microbes and viruses.
So if you want to boost your immune system and be safe, do exercise regularly, avoid overtraining, eat healthy, sleep enough, practice relaxation techniques and of course do not forget to be wash your hands and maintain social distance!
If you’d like to know more about the content discussed in this article, please call (03) 9770 2398 to book an appointment with Mona.
Sports Medicine by Sport and Exercise Medicine Physicians
Mornington, Frankston, Narre Warren