Top tips for boosting immunity with exercise

The immune system contains special organs, cells, antibodies, and chemicals that help our body fight infections, and other illnesses (1). With its crucial function in our body, we need to balance our lifestyle, diet, and well-being to keep our immune system actively protecting us from different kinds of infections. Lucky for us, exercise and immunity are connected - let’s find out how.

How exercise boosts immunity

Exercise has positive effects on the body. Aside from controlling weight, reducing risks of illnesses, managing your vitals, improving your mood and mental health2, exercise also boosts immunity. It also helps if you’re eating the right food to increase the benefits that exercise does for the body.

Through exercise, you experience elevated heart rate, body temperature, and an increase in breathing during physical activities. An increase in blood flow allows the body to circulate white blood cells faster to fight off illnesses and infections3. Exercise also makes you breathe faster and deeper to help exhale out bacteria and other microorganisms found in the lungs which can make you sick (4). An increase in the acute immune response is also seen when the body experiences raised body temperature (5).

Exercise increases the production of immune cells and enhances immune markers to detect and respond to illnesses faster (6). It also releases amino acids to the immune system that contain anti-inflammatory components (7).

Exercise and immunity work in lowering the stress hormones in the body (8). With stress, there’s less antibody production, lowered immune cell activity, and possible reactivation of infections (9). It can also lead to different illnesses which can be detrimental to your health in the long-run (10).

Nutrients to help exercise boost immunity

Energy is needed to do exercises, which can be gained from a nutritious diet. Different nutrients absorbed from eating can add more benefits to exercise. Vitamin B complex is seen as an essential part of the immune process (11) where it increases white blood cells (12). Vitamin C helps in the production of different cells needed to protect the body from unwanted organisms, as well as other immune-related functions of the body (13). The immune system’s response to microorganisms is heightened by the presence of vitamin D (14). Both vitamin B12 and biotin act as immune system modulators for immune cells and antigens (15, 16).

Other nutrients that can also help in exercise and immunity include zinc, which is important for the development and function of innate immunity cells and serves as an antioxidant that prevents harm during inflammation (17). Iron plays a role in the proliferation and maturation of immune cells (18). Astaxanthin, probiotics, and fish oil help improve immune markers (19), and support the production of immune cells (20, 21). Aside from its antioxidant properties, ashwagandha also improves cell-mediated immunity (22).

Exercises that support the immune system

Any physical activity can help in supporting and maintaining your immune system. There are suggested activities per age group as well as recommended frequency and number of minutes for the physical activities for Australians (23). These guidelines maximise the health benefits that exercises provide to individuals.

Types of physical activity

There are different types of physical activities which you can do during your free time. It can be as simple as walking around the house or more intense like circuit training. The guideline helps you get the right mix of physical activities and time spent, which helps the body achieve your immunity goals.

Moderate intensity

These exercises or activities aim to slightly elevate your heart rate and breathing, and keep your body warm (24). Some examples of this type of activity are brisk walking, golf, dancing, hiking, mowing the lawn, and riding a bike. These activities can be done throughout the day without adding too much strain to the body.

Vigorous intensity

It's considered vigorous physical activity when you exert more effort in the activity, breathe harder and your heart pumps faster after completing it. Sports like swimming, running, and football, and including walking up a flight of stairs and doing simple aerobic exercise are some of the examples. Some may prefer to do this activity as the health benefits of doing a 75-minute vigorous activity is the same as doing moderate activities for 150 minutes in a week (24).

Very vigorous intensity

Some of the activities under this type include high-intensity interval training, heavy lifting, circuit training, and spinning classes. It differs from the other types where it relies on exerting high levels of effort for a short period of time (24). Extra care should be given when doing these types of exercises as overexertion can cause injuries that can dampen your routine.

Muscle strengthening

The previous activities focus on breathing and your heart pumping. With muscle strengthening, it’s more on getting your muscles toned which can help improve your immunity by preventing certain illnesses (25). This type includes house chores that need lifting and carrying, pilates, push-ups and pull-ups, and yoga.

For those between the ages 18 to 64, the recommended activity is either 2.5 to 5 hours moderate intensity, 1.25 to 2.5 hours vigorous intensity, or a mix of moderate and vigorous physical activities per week (26). It should also include muscle-strengthening activity twice a week.

For 65 years and older, at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every day is recommended (27). Doing more is better but doing it consistently with less time is preferred than not doing it at all. Exercising too much can also be bad for the body as it can make you prone to infection and injury (28).

Support immune health through supplements

Diet, exercise, and immunity are important aspects in achieving a healthy you. Including supplements in your well-rounded diet is another way to ensure you receive enough of the nutrients needed to support your immunity. Vitable has a wide selection of immunity-related vitamins and minerals for you to create your own vitamin packs. We are one of the best providers of custom vitamins in Australia through our vitamins subscription services which come with vitamin delivery right to your doorstep.

Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:

Zinc | Iron | Astaxanthin | Ashwagandha | Probiotics SB | B complex | Vitamin C | Vitamin D | Daily probiotics | Vitamin B12 | Fish oil | Biotin

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

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