Shape Up to Re-boost your Immune System

May 10 / David Leith

Shape Up to Re-boost your Immune System

Physical inactivity has been cited as a major contributor to many chronic diseases that plaque the modern world. Labelled as ‘the new smoking’, being physically inactive may have dire consequences for your physical, metabolic, cardiovascular and psychological well-being as well as reducing independence and functionality in later years. Most topically, physical inactivity has recently been identified as one of the strongest risk factors for suffering severe outcomes from COVID-19.1

In this retrospective observational study of nearly 50 000 American adults,1 meeting physical activity guidelines (>150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week) prior to the pandemic was associated with significantly reduced odds for hospitalisation, ICU admission and death among COVID-19 patients. Being consistently inactive conferred an even greater risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes compared to smoking and underlying comorbidities, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.1 It seems that physical activity should thus be promoted as a primary behaviour and preventative treatment against severe COVID-19 outcomes, especially for individuals with underlying comorbidities. Indeed, the benefits of physical activity on immune function have been well documented.

The human body’s immune system is highly responsive to exercise.2 Perceived as a further ‘stress’ to the body, the immune system is acutely roused to action with an increased circulation of immune cells (e.g. leukocytes) to help cope with the stress of the exercise bout. The immune response is somewhat proportional to the degree and duration of each exercise session.2 The resultant exchange of immune cells between tissues and systemic circulation has been found to confer a net anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effect, provided the exercise sessions are not excessively intense or prolonged (e.g. ultra-marathon).2 
Being consistently inactive conferred an even greater risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes compared to smoking and underlying comorbidities, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.1
This means that a typical exercise session performed at a moderate-vigorous intensity for 45 - 60 minutes has a ‘therapeutic’ effect. Indeed, each exercise bout promotes a transient increase in ‘immunoserveillance’ (ability to identify and clear harmful pathogens).2 With chronic training, this has a summative effect and confers multiple health benefits, including a reduced risk of illness and decreased levels of systemic inflammation. Multiple studies have reported that near-daily moderate exercise significantly reduces the incidence and duration of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), more so even than medicinal treatment.2 This suggests that adding an extra dose of exercise a day may be the medicine you really need.

Therefore, with winter fast approaching, amidst what appears to be a third wave of COVID-19 infections, it is imperative that we all prioritise our health and strengthen our immune defence systems. What better way than making healthy lifestyle decisions and embarking on a new exercise programme? Join Shape Up with SSISA Academy at the next 12 week programme launching in May (around the corner!). Led by qualified biokineticists, this programme is safe, structured, scalable to all fitness levels and may be performed in-person or from the comfort of your home. Shape Up now to enhance your immunity and stay safe this winter.
1. Sallis, R., Young, DR., Tartof, SY et al. (2021). Physical inactivity I associated with a higher risk of severeCOVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48440 adult patients. Br J Sports Med. 0:1-8.

2. Nieman, DC and Wentz, LM. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system.J Sport Health Sci. 8: 201-217.