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Best Exercises That Boost Immune Function

Best Exercises That Boost Immune Function

The immune system is heavily reliant on several different lifestyle factors. Boosting the immune system naturally can be done through the establishment of habits that benefit the body and the mind.

What a person eats, what they expose themselves to in their environment, and how much they move will all affect how well the immune system functions. While diet is the main factor in immune function, exercise is close behind in keeping things running as they should.

Read on to discover the best exercises that boost immune function.

How to boost immune system naturally

Certain lifestyle hacks can help you achieve optimal immune health. They are simple additions to everyday living and don’t require too much effort to keep them up on a regular basis. The first area to focus on in order to help boost the immune system is diet. Ensuring the body is getting all the nutrients it needs is vital to immune health.

Vitamins and minerals that help with immune function include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, iron, selenium, and zinc. Eating a combination of foods that have high amounts of these vitamins will ensure that your body gets the recommended daily dosages and keeps things running at their best.

Sleep is also vital to immune health. Without adequate sleep, the body is left vulnerable to different pathogens that it could fight off otherwise. Quality sleep is different for everyone, but typically falls in the range of seven to nine hours per night. It requires proper cycling through REM and non-REM sleep cycles.

Hydration is also a key factor in a person’s susceptibility to illness. When you don’t consume enough water throughout the day, your body has a harder time fighting off pathogens because dehydration can lead to health issues that compromise the immune function. Managing stress is also crucial; being overly stressed can actually weaken the immune response. To cope with high levels of stress, make time every day for a relaxation exercise in order to decrease cortisol levels.  

What are the effects of exercise on the immune system?

Exercise can affect the immune system in both positive and negative ways, depending on the type of exercise and a person’s overall fitness level. On the negative side of the coin, studies have shown that intense bouts of exercise can cause the immune system to become less able to fight off pathogens for at least 72 hours following a 90-minute session of strenuous exercise. It’s suggested that this occurs because when the body is physically exerted for extended periods of time, the body releases hormones designed to lower the immune function temporarily. The cause for this is unclear.

During exercise, certain changes occur in the body on a cellular level. For example, it’s thought that exercise can cause changes in the counts of both antibodies and white blood cells – immune cells responsible for fighting off pathogens and foreign invaders.

Exercising also causes changes in temperature. This is thought to lead to the suppression of bacteria overgrowth. It is a similar process as having a fever; the body becomes feverish when it is trying to alert the immune system to do its job. Exercise also slows the release of stress hormones, and less stress hormones means a healthier immune system.


Image by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash: Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, is one of the best types of exercise for an immune boost.

How does exercise improve immune function?

When it comes to improving immune function, the type of exercise is of the utmost importance. As mentioned, vigorous exercise can actually have negative effects. The sweet spot for immune health improvement is the middle ground, or moderate levels of exercise. Engaging in roughly 45 minutes of exercise can lead to an improvement in immunosurveillance, the white blood cells’ and antibodies’ ability to circulate through the blood faster, thus giving them a higher rate of finding infection.

Moderate levels of exercise have also been shown to help lower inflammation levels throughout the body. When inflammation levels are high, an immune response is triggered. If there is no pathogen to hunt down and get rid of, the body tends to experience a weakened immune function over time. If moderate exercise is done regularly, over time the body will experience a stronger immune function because the immune system is regulated more effectively.

What are the best exercises for immune health?

As mentioned, the type of exercise is the main factor when it comes to whether or not the immune system will reap the positive benefits. Anything that is moderate in nature is generally the best bet, and while exercising at any level is better than no exercise at all, the following moderate exercises can help boost the immune system better than others.

Walking and hiking

Taking a brisk walk or hiking for 45 to 60 minutes can help boost the immune system tremendously. By getting blood and oxygen flowing through the body, walking or hiking can lead to better circulation and higher amounts of immune cells.


While jogging might be a little more strenuous for some, for those in peak physical condition, jogging is a good way to moderately exercise to help boost the immune system. It raises the body temperature, which perks up the immune system’s ability to respond to pathogens and increases levels of white blood cells.


Image by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash: Swimming is great low-impact way to boost the immune system.


Swimming is a great low-impact exercise. When the body experiences changed conditions, such as diving into a cold swimming pool, it is forced to create more white blood cells. This leads to the body’s increased ability to activate its defense system.


Practicing yoga regularly can play a role in strengthening the immune system by reducing pro-inflammatory markers such as cytokines. This leads to a stronger immune system overtime by reducing levels of inflammation throughout the body.

Strength training

Strength training, such as lifting weights, can help improve the circulation, thus lending a hand to the circulation of immune cells. There is not much research on what type of weight training is the most effective, but if you stick to the moderation principle, your immune system should benefit.

So, does exercise help boost the immune system? In short, yes. However, the type of exercise you do will greatly impact how much and how positive the end result for your immune response will be.

Featured image by Carl Barcelo on Unsplash

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