Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Does exercise weaken your immune system?
I've seen questions and claims across the internet lately that exercise can weaken your immune system because of oxidative stress and muscle damage causing inflammation and pulling resources from your immune system and spreading it thin.
So if there's a viral pandemic, would avoiding physical activity be the safest and healthiest option? Or does physical activity strengthen your immune system?
Physical activity does many good things for your health, and can support your immune system. Avoiding exercise and choosing a sedentary lifestyle can actually result in a low-grade, chronic inflammation, which is counterproductive for immune health (Farrell, Joyner, & Caiozzo, 2012).
Specifically, physical activity helps to circulate lymphocytes, and produce certain cytokines from muscle tissue (known as myokines) that serve metabolic and anti-inflammatory roles (Farrell, Joyner, & Caiozzo, 2012).
Do you want to learn more about the immune system? Do you want to lear
n more about the role of exercise and nutrition, and it's connection to immune health? Sign up for our online course Strengthening Your Immune System and learn from exercise scientist Dr. Bennion, and registered dietitian Nicole Barron so you can gain an understanding of what the immune system is, how it works, and the roles of exercise and nutrition in supporting your health.
Farrell, P. A., Joyner, M. J., & Caiozzo, V. J. (2012). ACSM's advanced exercise physiology (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.