Solon: Exercise and immune function

Pio Solon

THE 2019 Novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc on our news cycles and more importantly our news feeds with so much information coming from so many different and “credible” sources.

What I’m afraid of is the lack of information experts have on handling the virus. I hope that we allay our fears and focus on preventive practices as this perhaps gives us the best chance of fighting the disease whenever it comes to our shores.

Little is known about exercise immunology. Most research papers on the topic are published after 1990. We often hear that the first line of defense for our immune system is a healthy lifestyle. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, moderate exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, adequate sleep, stress management, no smoking and moderate alcohol consumption are all recommended to keep your immune system in top shape.

What exactly do we now know about exercise and our immune system?

1. There is enhanced innate immune surveillance with moderate exercise. Immunological surveillance is a monitoring process of the immune system to detect and destroy virally infected and transformed cells in the body. Good news, right?

2. After heavy exertion, there is transient immune dysfunction. You’re more likely to catch a cold after a heavy and intense workout.

3. Physically active and lean individuals have reduced systemic inflammation.

4. Exercise mitigates the effects of aging on immune function.

5. Carbohydrates help the immune system after exercise. During the 1990s, several studies reported that carbohydrate ingestion (30–60 g/h) during prolonged endurance exercise (90 minutes and longer) was linked with lower postexercise plasma stress hormone levels and inflammation.

Exercise aids the immune system. Although too much can also depress our immune function. Those suffering from inflammatory diseases might help to get some exercise.

Without a doubt, exercise is one of the most powerful tools in keeping our immune system and health in optimal shape. Looking good is just another side-effect to exercise’s benefits on our bodies.

As always, consult your physician before embarking on a fitness regimen. Stay safe and healthy!