Exercise and Immune Health

Immune Health & Exercise

To help us think about how to stay safe during this public health crisis, we looked at a few academic articles in the field of immune health and exercise.  As with all fields, there are competing viewpoints, but we’ve leaned on these sources for the following information and we are grateful for the private communication with some of these authors:

Takeways In Support of Exercise:

From the Simpson, Campbell, Gleeson et al article:  There is agreement that “Regular bouts of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise are beneficial for the normal functioning of the immune system and likely help lower the risk of respiratory infection/illness and some cancers. The frequent exchange of immune cells between the blood and the tissues with each bout of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise likely contributes to enhanced immune surveillance, improved health and a lower risk of illness.”

From Woods: “It is safe to exercise during the coronavirus outbreak. One should not limit the multitude of health benefits that exercise provides us on a daily basis just because there is a new virus in our environment. However, there may be some additional precautions to reduce your risk of infection.”

From Campbell and Turner: “evidence from epidemiological studies shows that leading a physically active lifestyle reduces the incidence of communicable (e.g., bacterial and viral infections) and non- communicable diseases (e.g., cancer), implying that immune competency is enhanced by regular exercise bouts . . . exercise should be encouraged, particularly for older adults who are at greatest risk of infections and who may obtain the greatest exercise-induced benefits to immune competency.”  AND “leading an active lifestyle is likely to be beneficial, rather than detrimental, to immune function . . . “

Opposing Viewpoint

According to the Simpson, Campbell, Gleeson et al article, there is a viewpoint that “illness risk may be elevated during periods of heavy exertion that go beyond recommended physical activity guidelines, especially when other stressors are present.”



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