Exercise to Improve Immune System Function.
A lot is written about how important the diet is to immune system function. Sometimes in the midst of all of this information, we forget about the direct relationship between exercise and immune system function. While not all studies agree on how this happens, the bulk of studies do show this to be true.
This is not to imply that exercise is a magic tonic for all immune dysfunctional. Just as eating healthy foods improves but doesn't perfect immune function, exercising regularly improves but doesn't perfect immune function.
Stress and the Immune System
It is important to understand the indirect relationship between immune system function and exercise as well. Most notable, we now know that prolonged periods of stress lead to a variety of negative immune system conditions. Regular exercise is known to be one of the best fighters of stress that we have at our disposal. What makes exercise unique in the fight against prolonged stress is that it works almost regardless of the reason for the stress.
There are many stress reducing benefits of exercise. It not only physically reduces stress reactions by the body, but it also helps us to adapt better to stress emotionally. Positive endorphins released by exercise and improved brain function are both beneficial in this regard. The function of muscles, even at the cellular level, during exercise helps your muscles to be more relaxed. This physically decreases your body's stress level.
Physical Impact of Exercise on Immune System Function
More study needs to be done about how exercise triggers heightened immune system function. For now, we simply know that the immune system is more active and more accurate during and following moderate exercise. We also know that it helps blood flow reach the body more effectively, which improves waste management, the delivery of energy, the delivery of nutrients, and the broadness of immune cell activity. Even kidney function and antibody development seem to improve.
In particular, there have been a lot of studies that have shown a direct correlation between exercise levels and the susceptibility to, duration of, and severity of colds. Simply put, the more regularly you exercise the better your odds of avoiding colds and suffering less severely from the colds you get.
Other Exercise Benefits that May Have Indirect Impacts on the Immune System
Exercise provides a lot of psychological benefits beyond stress reduction. Those who exercise regularly tend to have a better overall sense of well-being. In fact, when controlling for height and weight, those who exercise regularly have been found to feel better about themselves and suffer from less depression. A sense of well-being tends to be associated with recovery from a variety of diseases. Depression has long been correlated with immune dysfunction. Self-image is theorized to impact immune function.
There may be many yet undiscovered mechanisms at work in the benefits of exercise toward the immune system, but there is plenty of evidence to the effect that moderate, regular exercise benefits immune system function.