There are several ways to enhance the performance of your immune system, from establishing good sleep patterns to eating healthy to learning how to manage stress. But, have you ever considered working out to boost immune system function?
Cardio and strength training both enhance immunity against bacterial and viral infections and other diseases such as cancers.
Most research on the link between exercise and immunity has looked at moderate-intensity aerobic training. Still, newer research shows that high-intensity interval training, rapid plyometric strength training, and weight-based exercises are also effective.
Sign up for strength training classes at Fit Athletic and reap the benefits today!
Usually, only a few immune cells circulate in the body, with the rest being in lymphoid tissues and the spleen. Exercise of any sort causes an increased rate of blood flow. Muscle contractions during exercise increase lymph drainage, resulting in more immune cells circulating in the body at a higher rate.
It particularly helps recruit specialized immune cells that target pathogens, such as natural killer cells and T cells. This lowers your risk of infection and means you experience less severe disease when infected.
Working out reduces chronic inflammation in the body, including in the immune system, enhances its function and allows it to spend more resources on fighting infections.
Not all inflammation is bad. Muscle-damaging exercise creates a localized pro-inflammatory state that draws in lymphocytes and mobilizes leukocytes, enhancing the immune response temporarily.
Strength training that emphasizes eccentric muscle actions (slowing the downward phase) tends to cause the most skeletal muscle hypertrophy, and increased muscle mass has benefits for the immune system. You have a greater pool of amino acids to draw on, allowing your body to mount a more effective response.
Regular strength training also maintains the quality of your muscles, with less interspersed fat, which boosts immune functioning and reduces the risk of certain cancers. Cancer is caused by your own cells going rogue and multiplying out of control: a healthy immune system catches these harmful rogue cells before they proliferate.
More muscle mass also creates a hiding place for CD8+ T cells, which become “exhausted” by chronic infection. Since long-term illness also depletes muscle mass, working out to boost your immune system while you’re chronically sick is not as ill-advised as you may have thought. Just don’t overdo it!
If you’re working out to boost immune system function, avoid intense strength workouts that cause a lot of muscle damage. You will need a lot of recovery time for muscle repair, and it will compete with your immune system for resources.
In particular, lifting very heavy weights or doing eccentric exercises tends to cause damage. If this sort of exercise is new to you, sign up for strength training classes for expert guidance on what to do.
Strength training classes also give you a community to keep you on track. Join Fit Athletic today!