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Exercise and Immunity

Fight Off Colds with Exercise


Updated August 12, 2007

Regular exercise has the ability to improve your immune system and help you fight off colds, flu and other infections. It can even help you recover faster from a minor infection. So don’t stop exercising just because you are a little bit under the weather.

Why Does Exercise Improve Immunity?

No one really knows for sure, but there are a few theories:
  • When you exercise, your body increases the speed at which it removes waste products. Because your respiratory rate (breathing rate) increases, more bacteria and foreign particles may be flushed from the lungs. You also increase the amount that you sweat, which may help remove waste products. All this extra waste removal would decrease your risk of infection simply because fewer infectious agents will be present in your body.
  • A second explanation is that exercise increases your heart rate. A faster heart means that white blood cells and other components of the immune system circulate through your body faster. This may decrease the amount of time it takes for the immune system to react to a potential infection.
  • When you exercise, your body temperature rises. Many infectious agents cannot survive a shift in even a few degrees (which is why your body generates a fever to fight infection).
  • Exercise reduces your stress, and stress can prevent the immune system from working well.

Can I Exercise Too Much?

From the point of view of our immune system, yes. Marathon runners and other endurance athletes may have a suppressed immune system – mostly due to the extreme strain placed on their bodies. Unless you are running several marathons a year or working out 2 hours a day in the gym, you probably don’t have to worry about exercise interfering with your immune system.

More on Exercise:
Make Exercise Fun
Hidden Benefits of Exercise
Sleep Better Through Exercise
Learn to Love Exercise
Your Balance and Exercise
Get More Energy by Exercising
Increase Your Life Expectancy With Exercise
Mental Fitness and Exercise
Want a Better Sex Life? Exercise.
Strong Bones and Exercise
Your Social Life and Exercise
Improve Your Mood With Exercise


ADAM Medical Encyclopedia. Exercise and Immunity

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Develop Exercise Habits With Your Children

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