How Moving More Supports Your Immune System

Would you like to have
a stronger immune system? Would you like to feel more resilient in the face of
coughs, colds, bugs, and viruses? Would you like to bounce back quicker from

In this article, I am
going to talk about one simple thing we can all do to support our immune
system. And, by the way, it’s free!

Movement Keeps Us

The one thing we can
all do every day to enhance our health is move more. It doesn’t matter whether
you call it exercise, physical activity, or movement, it’s going to help you
fend off viruses, bugs, and other nasties.

There is strong
scientific evidence that confirms the benefits of regular exercise on our
immune system. Since it boosts our physical and mental health, that’s a great reason
to find ways to be active and move every day.

The simplest reason
for this is that when we exercise, we increase our circulation (the rate at
which blood is pumped around our body). When our circulation increases, our
blood can deliver more oxygen and nutrients to all our cells, keeping them

More blood flowing
round allows our immune system to act faster and more efficiently.

What Does the
Immune System Do?

Our immune system does
two important jobs.

Firstly, it’s
permanently on the lookout for viruses, infections, and other harmful elements.
This crucial process is called immunosurveillance.

Secondly, once our
immune cells see something suspicious, they need to rally the troops. They need
to call in other cells to attack and remove the intruder as quickly as

The more we move and
promote circulation, the better our immune system can perform all these

Which Kinds of
Exercise Are Most Efficient?

The type of exercise
that promotes our circulation is cardiovascular exercise (also known as aerobic
exercise, CV, or cardio). It doesn’t matter what we call it; it’s any activity
that gets our heart rate up and boosts our circulation.

To boost our circulation, we want to do more moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise. There are also known to be many benefits of higher intensity exercise, but there are also risks and precautions that need to be taken, so I will save that for another article!

You know you are doing
moderate-intensity exercise if you are getting slightly out of breath when you
are exercising. This, of course, means different things to different people.

For one person, a
brisk walk might qualify as moderate-intensity exercise. For others, it’s going
to be an uphill sprint on a bike. So it’s about doing what’s right for you!

When you are doing
moderate-intensity exercise, you should still be able to talk, but not sing. If
you can sing you could probably be doing a bit more. If you can’t even talk,
you are probably working too hard!

The key to
cardiovascular exercises is rhythmic movement of the limbs and the subsequent
increase in the heart rate. That’s what boosts our circulation and helps our
immune system to function to the best of its capability.

Exercise Trivia

There are a couple of
other things that are worth mentioning.

There’s the
possibility that the brief rise in body temperature that is associated with
exercise is beneficial (in that it makes it harder for bacteria and viruses to

There’s also a
suggestion that, as our breathing rate increases, we may flush our lungs and
our airways out a bit more and therefore get rid of bacteria and viruses

There are also two
particularly important ways in which exercise indirectly impacts our immune

The first is sleep. You may know that exercise improves the quality of our sleep. And our immune system needs sleep to function well. When we sleep, our bodies release important proteins, antibodies, and immune cells, all of which help to fight infections and inflammation.

So, we need enough
good-quality sleep if we are going to fight off viruses and infections.

Exercise also reduces
our stress hormones and helps to stabilise our mood. When we are stressed, we
release a hormone called cortisol. Too much cortisol suppresses our immune
system. So, if we want to stave off illness and avoid viruses, we need to take
steps to keep our stress and cortisol levels as low as possible.

I am aware this is
easier said than done at difficult times. While we can’t always change what’s
going on around us, we can usually take steps to modify our response or improve
our coping mechanisms.

Risks of Exercise

Before you go for that
walk, exercise class, or do a home exercise video, are there any risks
in terms of exercise and your immune system?

The only type of
exercise that could be a concern is prolonged, high-intensity exercise. We’re
talking endurance events, not dance classes or brisk walks.

There is some evidence
to suggest that prolonged, high-intensity activities can suppress our immune
system. However, that’s only an issue if you are planning on running multiple
marathons or taking part in some ultra-endurance biking/swimming events.

Otherwise, as long as
you’re doing an activity that you feel is appropriate for you, it should be
beneficial for your overall health and for your immune system.

How Do You Know If
the Exercise You Do Is Right for You?

When you exercise, you should feel like you are working but not overdoing it. Afterwards, you should feel better than you did beforehand. So, you might feel a little tired but in a good way, like after an energising walk by the sea.

You shouldn’t feel so
shattered that you can’t walk up the stairs or do anything else that day. If
you do your exercise class, then go home and have nap, that’s OK (I love a good
nap although when you call it a siesta it sounds even better!). But, if you go
home and sleep for the rest of the day, the exercise might have been too much
for you.

Use Exercise to
Your Benefit

Moving more often
could be your secret weapon to boost your immune system, fight off viruses,
coughs, and colds, and bounce back more quickly if you do get ill.

Take a second now to
think about what you could be doing to move more often and stay active. Try and
do things you enjoy. If you like being outdoors, find something in nature. If
you like music, try doing some dance. If you like being with other people, meet
a friend for a walk, to play pickleball, or badminton, or go to a class.

If you are keen to exercise from
home, an online exercise studio might be
the answer
. Find something that you will be able to do easily
and will enjoy. Don’t make it harder than you need to!

What do you do to
boost your immune system? How often do you move? What kind of exercise leaves
you slightly out of breath? How do you feel afterwards? Please share your
experiences with our community!