Regular exercise benefits immunity

Being in isolation without access to gyms and sports clubs should not mean people stop exercising, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bath. Keeping up regular, daily exercise at a time when much of the world is going into isolation will play an important role in helping to maintain a healthy immune system.

In a recent article, Dr James Turner and Dr John Campbell from the University of Bath’s Department for Health, debated whether the immune system can change in a negative or positive way after exercise, and whether or not athletes get more infections than the general population.

Primary causes of infections:

The article concludes that infections are more likely to be linked to :

  • Inadequate diet
  • Psychological stress
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Travel
  • Pathogen exposure at social gathering (social distancing)

These factors were more important than the act of exercising itself. They also debated whether the immune system can change in a negative or positive way after exercise, and whether or not athletes get more infections than the general population. The article concludes that infections are more likely to be linked to inadequate diet, psychological stress, insufficient sleep, travel and importantly, pathogen exposure at social gathering events like marathons — rather than the act of exercising itself.

Regular moderate intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, running or cycling is recommended, with the aim of achieving 150 minutes per week. Longer, more vigorous exercise would not be harmful, but if capacity to exercise is restricted due to a health condition or disability, the message is to ‘move more’ and that ‘something is better than nothing’. Resistance exercise has clear benefits for maintaining muscles, which also helps movement.

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At this current time in particular, the researchers underline the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene when exercising, including thoroughly washing hands following exercise. To give the body its best chance at fighting off infections, they suggest in addition to doing regular exercise, people need to pay attention to the amount of sleep they get and maintain a healthy diet, that is energy balanced to account for energy that is used during exercise. They hope that this debate article will lead to a wave of new research exploring the beneficial effects of exercise on immune function.

 

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