The relationship between the immune system and physical activity is direct. Learn more about the benefits of exercise.
Keeping you free of infection and disease is the immune system’s job in the body. To achieve this, it has a highly complex network of cells and molecules that can be weaker or stronger depending on each person’s lifestyle, diet, and the levels of cortisol in their body, which are altered by stress.
According to studies by the American College of Sports Medicine, people who develop better cardiorespiratory skills through regular exercise improve their response to vaccination and show more positive immunological indicators for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, cognitive impairment, and obesity.
The Sports Medicine Unit at the Red Cross’s Victoria Eugenia Hospital presents some of the main benefits of sports and physical activity for the immune system:
- Physical activity helps eliminate bacteria from the lungs and airways, reducing the chances of getting a cold, flu, or other respiratory illness.
- Exercise causes changes in antibodies and leukocytes, which are immune system cells that fight diseases through antibodies, proteins that neutralize bacteria and external agents. These antibodies and leukocytes circulate more rapidly with regular exercise, detecting and fighting diseases more quickly and effectively.
- The brief rise in body temperature during exercise prevents bacterial growth. It can also help the body fight an infection better, similar to what happens when you have a fever.
- Exercise decreases the secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol that weaken the immune system, protecting less against disease.
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