Could exercise improve your response to vaccines?

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Special Populations Blog

Physical activity has been found to enhance immunity in general, however, exercise specifically before or after a vaccination could increase the success of vaccination as exercise circulates cell numbers and, as a result, there are specific increases in a particular number of subsets. Immune messenger proteins are released by working muscle cells themselves. Exercising after a flu shot may also prevent side effects such as headaches in addition to muscle soreness.

With vaccine success rates being around 50 to 70%, a large percentage of those people who were vaccinated are getting the minimal benefit. This is often mentioned as a reason why not to get the shot. People also avoid flu shots owing to side effects like headaches as well as soreness.

However, physical exercise after a flu shot might not only make the vaccine work better but it could protect recipients from some side effects as well. Medical experts are almost certain that exercise can assist vaccine response through activating parts of the immune system. This means that it’s ready to respond when the vaccine is given.

Exercise and general immunity

Regular physical exercise is one of the cornerstones of healthy living. It:

  • Improves cardiovascular health,
  • Lowers blood pressure,
  • Assists in controlling body weight, and
  • Provides protection against a number of diseases.

Nevertheless, the question should be asked as to whether it can help to boost your immune system in a natural manner and keep it healthy. Just as a healthy diet, exercise may contribute to the general good health and thus to a healthy immune system. It can contribute even more directly through promoting good circulation, which enables the cells as well as substances of the immune system to move through the body easily and do their job efficiently.

Exercise affords advantages to your immune system in many ways. It can:

  • Increase the blood flow,

Help to clear bacteria out of your airways,

  • Result in a brief elevation in body temperature which may be protective,
  • Boost antibodies to help fight against infection, and
  • Reduce stress hormones.

Exercise also helps the immune cells to be more effective. As a reaction to sessions of exercise, there is an immune response. This is a normal immune response. It’s maybe more accurate to say that exercise stimulates or kickstarts some normal immune processes.

Is more exercise better?                                                                                                                  

Intense exercise of a long duration — think in the region of 90 minutes or more, such as if you’re racing a half marathon or a marathon — begins to over-stress your immune system. This may temporarily impair its ability to do its job and leave you more susceptible to infection during this time. That’s what’s known as the ‘open window hypothesis’.

On the other hand, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) isn’t linked to such immune suppression even though it involves super-intense work. The reason for this is probably of its rest intervals and shorter overall duration.

Our bodies react in distinct ways and advise that people should not to overdo physical activity after a flu shot but participate in moderate activities such as cycling, or resistance exercise and prevent dehydration by consuming a lot of fluids.

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