How Exercise Boosts Your Immune System

How Exercise Boosts Your Immune System
Article written by:
Lana Cooksey
My goal is to improve the quality of life for all my clients by helping them feel stronger, healthier, and more confident.

Table of Contents

How Exercise Boosts Your Immune System

People’s motivations for starting and maintaining an exercise regimen are usually pretty straightforward: to lose weight, gain strength, and promote heart health.

You might also hear people describe how exercise helps with a general sense of “wellbeing.” But what does that really mean?

Fitness and strength training might start with your muscles, but exercise is about so much more. The things you do in the gym affect your whole body 24/7—and that includes your immune system.

Your Immune System

The immune system is a complicated but coordinated collection of organs located throughout your body, including your bone marrow, lymph nodes, tonsils, and more. Simply speaking, these organs produce cells (phagocytes and antibodies) that fight outside invaders (like viruses, bacteria, and toxins).

Of course, you can’t really put immune-system organs like your thymus or your spleen through a weight workout. But trust us when we tell you those squats, curls and burpees are doing wonders for your body’s ability to fight off colds and other intruders.

How Exercise Helps

Studies have shown that even moderate exercise steeply reduces your risk of illness. There’s even a name for this area of study: exercise immunology.

Every workout triggers fundamental bodily functions. Some of them you notice—you’ll breathe heavier, and you’ll start to sweat. But there are other things happening when you exercise that you can’t see or feel.

More Good Cells

The most direct way exercise improves your immune system is that it directly stimulates the production of T cells and—actual scientific term here—“Natural Killer” cells. Both of these types of cells identify and hunt down invaders. (T cells are used in some cancer treatments, too.)

It’s simple: More of these kinds of cells means your body is better suited to fight off whatever microscopic threats it encounters.

Less Stress

Your endocrine system stores and releases hormones, which are like tiny little messengers that tell various cells in your body what to do. One of those messengers—dopamine—tells your brain to be happy.

Exercise triggers a release of dopamine, which in turn reduces stress. Less stress means your body will then produce less cortisol, the “stress hormone” that can weaken your immune system.

In short, reducing your stress strengthens your immune system.

Deep Breaths

You breathe deeper during exercise in part because your muscles need more oxygen. But another helpful aspect of all of that breathing is that you’re flushing bacteria out of your lungs and airways.

Circulation and Immunity

Your blood flow is flushing things, too.

When you exercise, your heart rate increases so your circulatory system can bring oxygen and fuel to your muscles. That increased blood flow also helps to deliver those newly released hormones and white blood cells and all kinds of other great things throughout the body.

And that circulation is also taking the bad stuff and putting it on the fast track to be removed altogether.

Professional Guidance

All that being said, you don’t want to strengthen your immune system through exercise only to weaken or injure other parts of your body. A fitness pro will make sure your regimen is helpful for all your physiological functions. (They also make your workout less stressful, too.)

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