Does working out make your immune system stronger and stay healthy? You bet!
Regular exercise is a key component of healthy living. And it has direct benefits for your immune system. Aerobic exercise that boosts your heart rate – such as cycling or brisk walking – gets your blood pumping and oxygen flowing to your internal organs.
But how does working out benefit your body’s immune response?
The benefits of exercise for the immune system
There are many links between exercise and good health, and it is widely accepted that these benefits include immune function.
Here’s how exercise can help keep your immune system in peak condition:
- Promotes good circulation. This allows white blood cells and other substances to move freely through your body. This is believed to trigger the release of hormones that alert immune cells to intruding pathogens, and helping to remove toxins
- Encourages healthy, restorative sleep. Little or poor sleep is associated with lower immune system function and reduced numbers of protective killer cells, but exercise can counteract this by improving your sleep pattern
- Lowers risk of infection. Studies show that people who exercise take fewer sick days and have fewer and less severe upper respiratory tract infections. In research conducted at Appalachian State University, people who walked briskly for 45 minutes, five days a week over 12 to 15 weeks reduced their number of sick days by up to 50%, compared with those who were sedentary
- May help to flush bacteria from the lungs, reducing the chances of suffering from a cold or flu
- May prevent bacterial growth by temporarily elevating body temperature, allowing your body to fight infection more effectively7 (like it does when you have a fever)
- Slows down the release of stress-related hormones. Stress can be detrimental to your immune system, but exercise can help to reduce your stress levels
- Releases endorphins (natural painkillers). Feel-good endorphins released during workouts can help to improve your mood. They also act in a similar way to some pain-relief medicines, helping to reduce natural pain
As you can see, working out can certainly help to boost and support your immune system. But if you currently don’t get enough exercise, it can be a little daunting to know where to begin.
How to exercise more and find something you’ll stick to
One secret to overall fitness is simple: make it a habit.
The American Heart Association and other experts recommend 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Here are some tips for working out more often and exercising smarter.
- Set a routine. Aim for the same time of day – such as first thing in the morning – so working out becomes second nature
- Don’t stay out of the cold. Your body works harder when it has to warm up, increasing your basal metabolic rate to burn more calories
- Know yourself. Social? Try a spin or dance class. Or, if you prefer setting your own pace, consider a sport such as running where you can beat your personal best
- Get a workout buddy. It may be easier to stay motivated when someone else is counting on you. If you’re a dog owner, you already have a companion waiting in the wings; and it’s a great workout for both of you!
- Reward small goals. Treat yourself to new headphones or sneakers when you reach a milestone; it’ll keep you motivated to achieve your targets
- Sneak in extra exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park further from your destination. Get off the bus a stop earlier. Sneak any extra exercise you can. And if your day is mostly sedentary, get up to stretch and walk around frequently
What are the best types of exercise for the immune system?
Aerobic exercise – also known as cardiovascular (or cardio) exercise – has long been associated with a range of health benefits, including improved immune function1.
Common aerobic workouts include:
- Jogging or running
- Elliptical training
If you have mobility issues, you can still workout with a lower impact exercise. Try brisk walking, rowing, yoga or swimming. These types of exercise will put much less strain on the bones and joints.
It’s also a good idea to build some resistance training into your regime. As long as done safely and in moderation, there are no lasting negative effects on your immune system. And strength training can help to strengthen your muscles and bones, as well as aiding with weight loss goals.
Can too much exercise be bad for your immune function?
If something is good for you, there’s no such thing as too much, right?
Wrong. Alongside the risk of exhaustion and injury, overtraining may also have a negative impact on your immune system. In fact, athletes who train heavily or take part in high intensity exercise, such as marathon runners, often find themselves suffering from upper respiratory tract infections, which may be caused by a weakening of their immune systems2.
If you do train regularly, taking vitamin C may help to protect you and reduce the chances of upper respiratory infection. One study also found that taking vitamin C can reduce the chances of catching a cold for people undertaking hard training. Incorporate Airborne Plus Beta-Immune Booster into your daily routine to give your natural defenses a boost*.
As with anything, moderation is key. Take regular exercise as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle for the best chance of supporting your immune system.
 American Heart Association (2017) American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults
 University of Helsinki (2013) Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold