Exercise and Your Immune System

Women exercising on the beach.

HOW DOES EXERCISING IMPACT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?

If you’re an avid exerciser or even new to exercise, you might be wondering how working out affects your immune system. There are so many different ways to be active from light and low impact to intense and invigorating. But which is the best for your body? There are a number of factors that affect your immunity and you’ll need to consider all of them when adding in fitness.

In this blog post, we’ll cover:

  • Other Factors That Affect Your Immune System

  • Workouts That Support or Suppress Your Immune System

  • How To Workout When You’re Sick

  • The Best Supplements To Support Your Body + Your Immune System

 

First of all, consider the following factors that may affect your immune system:

Stress – All types of negative stress will affect how your body stays healthy and fights off disease. Whether you have mental stress, physical stress (injury, joint issues, muscle tears, cuts and scrapes, etc) or you’ve got some type of infection going on, stress can be a major impactor on your immune system.

Sleep – Poor quality sleep and prolonged sleep deprivation can suppress immune function.

Climate – Although exercising in either a hot or cold environment is said to not have much of an impact on your immune function, your body does have to work harder to keep cool or warm. In addition, if you’re traveling to and from a different climate, it may be an extra stress on your body with the possible consequence of compromising your immune system.

Mood – Any change in immunity can affect mood and inflammation.

Training Age – Having a higher level of fitness protects the immune system as it may limit the stress response to exercise. Exercise, in general, is a positive form of stress. When exercising too much or too intensely, if you’re not used to it, can cause additional stress on the body. Remember to gradually increase your physical fitness if trying to attain a higher level of strength and/or conditioning.

Nutrition – Quality, nutrient dense food is obviously going to help support your immune system. Getting in a good amount of healthy fats (including Omega-3 Fish Oil), carbohydrates and protein will help support your body’s functioning. In addition, colorful fruits and vegetables will help get your body vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that will help your body fight off disease and boost your immune system. On the contrary, eating a diet that consists of highly processed foods, a lot of sugar, fried foods and/or chemicals and additives won’t contribute to your overall health.

WORKOUTS THAT SUPPORT OR SUPPRESS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

So which types of exercise are the best to support your immune system? We’ve broken it down for you below.

  1. Brief Vigorous – Workouts that are shorter in duration yet more intense do not cause immune suppressing effects. These workouts would be HIIT (high intensity interval training) style workouts that are approximately 30 minutes (give or take a few).

  2. Moderate Intensity Exercise – These types of workouts can boost immunity. Moderate exercise sessions include a moderate intensity level and won’t last longer than approximately 50 minutes.

  3. Prolonged Vigorous Exercise – Exercising for too long at a high intensity level can depress the adaptive immune system. If exercising for a prolonged period of time (over 2 hours), it is best to mix up the intensity level and types of workouts to best support your immune system.

 

WHICH WORKOUTS ARE BEST WHEN SICK?

If you’re already sick and not sure if you should move or not, here are our top ways to move safely when you’re already down and out.

DO : Walking, jogging, swimming, biking, yoga, stretching, t’ai chi, qi gong are all good options. Exercises that don’t require too much intensity are best when sick.

DON’T : Heavy strength training, endurance training, HIIT (or tabata), Sprints, Intense intervals, team sports and exercising in extreme temperatures will only stress your body and your immune system more. Stay away from these activities if possible.

 

SUPPLEMENTS FOR A HEALTHY BODY

We love a few core supplements for overall health and a strong immune system.

MultiVitamin – It’s almost impossible to get everything you need in terms of micronutrients from the food you eat. We generally don’t eat a diverse enough diet or eat enough to cover all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that we need. A high quality food based multivitamin is a great way to ensure you’re getting everything you need. We like Garden of Life’s line of good based multivitamins for men and women.

Product: Garden of Life for Women | Garden of Life for Men

 

Green Superfood – Getting in all of your vegetables is always a challenge. 5 – 7 servings a day is fairly tough. Luckily, there are some great supplements out there that will provide you with some of the best, high quality ingredients to help get you the nutrition you need. Think spinach, wheat grass (it’s gluten free), spirulina and blue green algae. One of our favorites is Amazing Grass Green Superfood. It’s easy to drink on it’s own or add it to juice or a protein shake.

Product: Amazing Grass Green Superfood

 

Omega 3 – Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for a number of reasons including lower blood pressure, reduced triglycerides and reduction of abnormal heart rhythms just to name a few. They also help lower inflammation and protect vision. Getting a good, high quality fish oil is important. Jarrow Krill Oil is one of our most recommended sources of fish oil.

Product: Jarrow Formulas Krill Oil

 

Water – Hydrating with good, quality water is absolutely necessary. Without being fully hydrated, absorption won’t be as good leading to the reduction in positive effects from your supplements. An alkaline water is best to support your health and well being. Eternal water is our favorite. It’s sources from the Shasta Trinity Alps and has naturally occurring electrolytes and minerals.

Product: Eternal Water

 

Frankincense Essential Oil – Frankincense oil is a great immune booster. You can use it topically (a few drops mixed with your favorite lotion or oil like coconut oil) on your neck or it can be diffused in your home. We recommend a high quality grade oil like Rocky Mountain Oils.

Product: Frankincense Essential Oil

 

Not only is the way you exercise important for your body and your immune system but so are your healthy habits. Choose the type of exercise that works for you and your body, keep external stressors at bay if possible and build your body up with nutrition and supplementation if needed.

If you have any questions, please type them in the comments. We’ll be happy to answer and inquiries.

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Best In Health & Wellness,

Margot + The Vita Vie Retreat Team