Exercise and Immunity

Many of us incorporate work outs into our daily lives in the quest for optimal health. Naturopath Jodi Van Dyk takes a look at the effect all this exercise has on the immune system.

Many of us incorporate work outs into our daily lives in the quest for optimal health. Naturopath Jodi Van Dyk takes a look at the effect all this exercise has on the immune system.

Regular exercise is one of the hallmarks of good living. Ensuring you get adequate cardiovascular exercise along with resistance training may help to improve many health parameters.

Some of the benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Increased cardiovascular fitness and lowered risk of chronic heart disease via decreased LDL-cholesterol, increased HDL-cholesterol and lowered blood pressure
  • Increased basal metabolism
  • Decreased body fat and specifically abdominal fat
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved fitness levels

As exercise provides all these benefits, it’s something that we should all try to include in our weekly regimes.

Exercise also has an impact on our immune system. The role that exercise plays in immunity is complex and could be considered a paradox, as it can both boost and suppress the immune system.

Research has shown that exercise can be beneficial for the immune system. Three randomised exercise training studies have demonstrated that near daily exercise for 12-15 weeks by women who were previously inactive was associated with a significant reduction in upper respiratory tract infections. The exercise involved brisk walking for 40-45 minutes, 5 days per week.

However, longer, more intense exercise may decrease immunity – in professional athletes, for example. A study on elite rowers indicated that prolonged intense rowing training lowers the concentration of a key salivary protein of innate mucosal immunity, which might leave individuals at greater risk of contracting illness. In other words, if you’re someone who exercises frequently and at high level every time, you could be more susceptible to illness.

Here are some tips to ensure that your risk of infection is not increased:

  • Take adequate rest time between workouts and be wary of over-training.
  • Don’t feel guilty for having an exercise-free day. Your body will thank you for it!
  • Maintain a healthy whole food diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Try to get eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Supplement with a good quality multivitamin if you aren’t getting enough key nutrients in your diet

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