The Top 3 Exercises to Boost Your Immune System

exercise boost immune system

Now, perhaps even more than usual, it’s important to keep your immune system strong. You may not know where to start—with Hygiene? Diet? Supplements? One thing you may not have thought about is your exercise program. Yet exercise and your immune system are closely related. It’s true! You can use exercise to boost your immune system, and it’s easier than you might think!

What Is the Immune System?

The immune system is your body’s own private army of cells that are ready and willing to fight off infection and disease at a moment’s notice. Made up of many special cells and located in various areas of your body, these unique cells communicate with each other and recognize threats, moving about to prevent or minimize threats to your health. As your body’s internal defense system against sickness, disease, infection, and viruses, it’s important to do all you can to keep it as strong and balanced as possible.

How Can Exercise Boost the Immune System?

As you age (which we are all doing, each and every day of our lives), your body changes. These changes occur across the board among cells and systems. But you don’t have to sit around and let nature take its course. You can do something about it, namely use exercise to boost your immune system! Want to age gracefully? Then get busy incorporating a good fitness routine into your lifestyle.

According to Dr. Suzy Hong of the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine, “Hormones, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, are released into the blood stream and trigger adrenergic receptors, which immune cells possess. This activation process during exercise produces immunological responses, which include the production of many cytokines, or proteins, one of which is TNF—a key regulator of local and systemic inflammation that also helps boost immune responses…”

Exercise has been shown to have an overall anti-inflammatory effect. While your tissues may initially become inflamed during your workout, studies show that after your training (and overall), exercise has the ability to provide an immune-boosting anti-inflammatory effect that cascades throughout your body.

Exercise also:

  • Releases hormones that help redistribute the cells in your body, shuttling cells where they are needed to protect you from sickness and disease.
  • Helps reduce stress and produce endorphins, the natural feel-good hormones.
  • Aids in slowing the aging process.
  • Helps you avoid pathogens and infections.
  • Sets off a chain reaction of immune-boosting events.
  • Bolsters your white blood cells.
  • Can help eliminate bacteria from the body.

What Kind of Exercise Is Best to Boost Your Immune System?

You might think any exercise will do, and that’s not an entirely false assessment. And while all exercise probably qualifies as “good for you,” if you want to be strategic when it comes to aging and keeping your immune system strong, then you’ll want to pay attention! There are a few types of exercise that may be more beneficial than others.

Cardiovascular exercise is going to be wonderful in that it will keep your heart healthy, your circulation on point, and fat burning at top speeds. But, if you want to harness the power of exercise to boost your immune system, you’ll want to increase the amount of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise in your regimen. Studies show that these two types of exercise are extra helpful when it comes to circulating the cells that protect and boost your immune system.

Of note, however, scientist do show that extremely intense cardiovascular exercise can have a negative effect on the immune system; think marathon or ultra-distance runners, for example. Their systems may be so depleted after a race that they cannot glean the benefits on the immune system of a moderate-intensity workout.

Beyond cardio, what’s another great way to use exercise to boost your immune system?

3. Good ole resistance training. Working out with weights is another part of the exercise program you’ll want to employ to boost your immune system. According to studies documented by the Department of Exercise Physiology and Sports Therapy, Institute of Sports Science, University of Giessen and Medical Faculty, Sigmund Freud Private University, Vienna, Austria:

“Another mechanism that mediates the immune-regulating potential of physical activity seems to emanate from skeletal muscle itself. Cyclic muscle contractions and increased muscular energy metabolism leads to the production of various cytokines-termed myokines—or peptides with anti-inflammatory potential, indicating the muscle is an endocrine organ. IL-6 has been identified as one of the most effective myokines in immune regulation.”

Exercise to Boost Your Immune System

So, what’s a good plan to follow if you want to incorporate both moderate cardio and resistance training into your routine? Try something like the following:

Moderate cardio—daily walks, gentle jogging, hiking, or swimming. Aim for 30 minutes a day, up to five days a week.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)—done once or twice a week, a round of high-intensity interval training can help boost the effectiveness of your workout program. Begin with a five-minute warmup followed by one minute of higher intensity cardio work. “Rest” by resuming a slower pace for 2 to 4 minutes and then repeat the cycle for up to 20 minutes.

Resistance training—last, but certainly not least, is weight training. Your body needs to work against resistance to build and strengthen muscle. Try to do some form of resistance training at least twice a week. Try a full body workout if you are short on time, or if you prefer more intensity, do an upper and then a lower body workout.

Lastly, don’t forget to rest up after your workouts. Sufficient sleep (and rest) as well as a healthful diet and supplement regimen and reducing stress are all part of the immune-system-strengthening puzzle.