Exercise and the Immune System

Exercise and the Immune System

Majority of people know that exercise is beneficial for their health, but many do not understand the mechanisms to which it enhances the body. Upregulating certain enzymes, and downregulating others, kicking in a natural antioxidant defense system, creating a strong pump system just to name a few. There needs to be understanding that exercise training represents a highly cost-effective measure that can dramatically improve the quality of human life.

The immune system is a huge topic now in 2020, we have a virus that is aggressively attacking the immune system of the human body, we have many people on the path to systemic inflammation, damaging the engine of the machine. 

The immune system is resilient, it adapts to the things that enter your body, food, air, particles, molecules you name it, it has a response. If the immune system is compromised, we have an increase risk of autoimmune dysfunction as we age, this leads to a pro-inflammatory state and environment to the body. This becomes chronic STRESS and it taxes all the systems of the body and puts them into overdrive. (Think about driving a car at 100mph for 500 miles straight no break and no relaxation for the engine) 

The overdrive of the systems causes enzymes, cells, and genes to function differently, and that can create a chain effect throughout the body leading to many diseases i.e. Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, allergies and more.  With decrease of function, secretions of pro inflammatory cytokines lead to accelerated tissue damage, the lack of ability to fight off diseases, viruses and more. This leaves the body vulnerable and weak and constantly in a state of fight, this leads to the body becoming resistant to some of the processes that should take place to balance out and survive and keep you breathing and moving. Our body is a resilient machine, it will kick in natural cell death to clean out and get rid of dysfunction cells and the weakest cells. But when we do not take care of our system as a whole the sub systems do not work as well and we create systemic issues.

So how does performing resistance exercise (weight lifting) and cardiovascular work (riding a bike, running) create a strong and protective immune system? 

Exercise is a good stress to the human system; the body adapts to the stimulus you put on it by creating a stronger environment and dealing with the damage that you did to it. One big proponent of it is the built-in antioxidant system that increases in production to handle the by-products of exercise and create a bigger defense for the whole body. Continuous bouts of appropriate stress put on the body will help it always adapt to the world. This is how we survive. But if we do not engage this survival system what are we doing to ourselves. 

Sprint training and resistance training has shown to stimulate neuro-endocrine system as well as metabolic system that is associated with immune system function. Control of neuro-endocrine hormones have an effect on Natural Killer Cells, TNF-alpha, Interleukin-6, and hematopoietic stem cells which signal the building of different types of blood cells. These all have a huge impact and role in inflammation and the body’s defense of fighting off pathogens in the system. 

Natural Killer Cells, appropriate named cells that fight. They have increased activity with endurance training, lactic threshold training (high intensity) and in resistance trained individuals. Giving our body the ability to have a stronger immune system and increase the actions of these cells is key to helping our body have resistance to viral infections and formation of malignant cells. 

Putting it all together, multiple aspects of exercise is key to overall health and quality of life. The ability enhances the system is our best tool at defense and survival. The importance of physical activity is more prevalent now than ever, and it should be taken seriously.  


 2-3 days a week of 20-40 minutes of Aerobic work

 3 days a week of resistance training using 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions full body training with increasing resistance or intensity 

Combine this into a routine each week and build your immune system to be near bullet proof.


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