Article at a Glance:
- Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your immunity and overall health.
- Any exercise can do the trick, but exercises that promote calm and build muscle may be the most effective.
- Yoga has a positive effect on circulating immune cells and gene expression that hits almost immediately.
- Research shows a 30-minute walk provides a slight boost in immunity markers.
- Regular strength training and even single sessions can cause increases in several immunity markers.
Cold and flu season is just around the corner, so you may be stocking up on immunity-boosting supplements like Vitamin C, echinacea, zinc, and Re-Lyte Immunity. But don’t forget one of the most effective contributors to a rock-solid immune system: exercise!
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your immunity and overall health. When you get your workout in regularly, you might find yourself getting the sniffles less often!
There are lots of possible reasons for this. For example, exercise may create bodily conditions that prevent bacterial growth as well as support other immune-strengthening functions like a good night’s sleep. Exercise has also been shown to stimulate healthy cell growth, which includes cells that fight off illness.
Whatever the reasons, the evidence is clear: if you want to skip the yearly flu, get your sweat on.
The Best Exercises For Building Immunity
So what are the most effective exercises for strengthening the old immune system?
Any exercise can do the trick, but exercises that promote calm and build muscle may be the most effective.
Here are our top three:
The mental, spiritual, and physical benefits of yoga are well-documented. But its immunity-strengthening properties are also worth paying attention to!
According to one study, yoga has a positive effect on circulating immune cells and gene expression that hits almost immediately (as in, within a few hours of practicing). Another study suggests that yoga is effective at counteracting stress-related immunity impairment. (Stress relief and immunity boosting are a double whammy!)
To reap the many benefits of yoga, try practicing every day for 30 minutes. Check out classes at your local studio or rec center. You can also access various online yoga classes through local studios, subscription sites, or YouTube!
There’s no simpler, more accessible exercise than walking! One study found that a 30-minute walk provided a slight boost in immunity markers for test subjects.
You don’t have to head out for an actual “walk” every day either. Just using your feet to get around works perfectly! If you live in a walkable area, try leaving the car at home and hoofing it a few times a week, or employ classic tricks like parking farther away or taking the stairs to squeeze in a few more steps.
The key here is that any exercise will build your immunity over time, and walking is one of the easiest ways to do that!
#3- Strength Training
Gym rats, rejoice! Strength training may prove to be one of the best immunity-boosting exercises of all.
Regular strength training and even single sessions can cause increases in several immunity markers. There’s also some evidence that suggests muscle mass—which increases with strength training—can increase immunity as well.
This works by causing microtraumas to the muscular and skeletal systems. The body then rushes to repair these tears or traumas and build them back even stronger. This can also create an immune response and increase the blood's illness-fighting cells.
But again, don’t overdo it here. Working out too hard or too much can have the opposite effect and put you at risk for injury! Not what we’re going for!
Try to get some full-body strength training in twice per week. Break out the weights, resistance bands, kettlebells—whatever you’ve got!
The Bottom Line: Get Moving!
While yoga, strength training, and walking appear to be the best bang for your buck when it comes to immunity-boosting exercise, the truth is that any moderate exercise will give you a leg up for flu season.
The key here is moderate. You can have too much of a good thing! Overexercising can actually have the opposite effect you’re shooting for and decrease your immunity, so look for that sweet spot. Keep your daily workouts to 60 minutes or less for the most part (though we won’t discourage you from a day-long hike if that’s what makes you feel great).
Whether you love dancing, hiking, swimming, spinning, whatever, just get 30-60 minutes daily to keep your bodily systems healthy and fight off the pesky germs.
- Can Weightlifting Keep You From Getting Sick? Immunity Study Explains— Inverse.
- How muscle helps to build a healthy immune system— The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Effect of integrated yoga practices on immune responses in examination stress – A preliminary study— International Journal of Yoga.
- Strength Training Session Induces Important Changes on Physiological, Immunological, and Inflammatory Biomarkers— Journal of Immunology Research.
- Immune response to a 30-minute walk— Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
- Rapid Gene Expression Changes in Peripheral Blood Lymphocytes upon Practice of a Comprehensive Yoga Program— PLOS One.