Exercise for Immune Strength
*Authors Note: This does not replace advice from your medical doctor. We merely want to help our members stay up to date on current medical research that may aid in living a healthier life.*
We live in a time where everyone is seeking a way to boost their immune system through “THIS ONE EASY TRICK.” They flock to stores to buy supplements in tubes because of clever marketing, or desperation, or even just a lack of knowledge.
We’re here to tell you about that one easy trick. Except it’s not always easy, and it’s not a trick. It’s comprised of three parts, a healthy diet, moderate exercise, and ~8 hours of sleep. When consistently performed, these are the simplest things that you can do to boost your immune system.
These are scientifically PROVEN methods of strengthening your immune system naturally, from your home. Note, we didn’t say comfort from your home, because let’s be honest, fitness isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes your lungs burn, your heart pounds and your muscles are sore. But those are just signs that you’re working, and humans are built to work.
Moderate Exercise, Consistently Performed
So what does moderate exercise, consistently performed mean?
It doesn’t mean go out and kill yourself every day, as “prolonged, intense exercise causes immunosuppression, while moderate intensity exercise improves immune function and potentially reduces risk and severity of respiratory viral infection (SOURCE).” But it also means that going out for a leisurely stroll that never raises your heart rate is not enough. Your goal is to either use short bursts of high intensity movement (think shorter, 21-15-9 style metabolic conditioning workouts that are an all out sprint for 3-7 minutes), or longer, slower jogs and similar monostructural work that moves your heart rate into 60-70% of your heart rate max, for ~30 minutes a day.
“A comparison of runners competing in a 5 km, 10 km, or 21.1 km race (23) found athletes who ran over 15 miles per week had reduced incidence of respiratory symptoms when compared with athletes training at a lesser volume, and that runners training for the 21.1 km race had fewer infections than their shorter-distance counterparts in the two months prior to the race. In addition, there was no increased reporting rate of URTI symptoms in the 7 days following the races when compared to the 7 days prior to the races. A second study examined more than 2000 athletes competing in the Los Angeles Marathon (24). Runners who trained >97 km per week had twice the risk of the development of URTI symptoms when compared to the referent group which trained <32 km per week. (SOURCE)”
Take It Slow
The biggest takeaway is that jumping from the couch to a marathon is likely to cause symptoms of overtraining (we’ll get into what overtraining is at a later date) and harm your immune system. If you take a slow and steady approach to increasing your work capacity, or if you are already exercising moderately each week, and continue to do so; your immune system is more capable of fighting off an upper respiratory tract infection.
First Line of Defense Against Metabolic Disease
In addition to moderate exercise being shown to strengthen your immune system, it has been recently been shown to increase an enzyme that forms the first line of defense against many metabolic diseases caused by oxidative stressors (SOURCE); including ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), a major complication of the disease COVID-19:
“Recent medical research findings “strongly support” the possibility that exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), which affects between 3% and 17% of all patients with COVID-19. Based on available information, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 20% to 42% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 will develop ARDS. The range for patients admitted to intensive care is estimated at 67% to 85%….
Research suggests that even a single session of exercise increases production of the antioxidant, prompting Yan to urge people to find ways to exercise even while maintaining social distancing. “We cannot live in isolation forever,” he said. “Regular exercise has far more health benefits than we know. The protection against this severe respiratory disease condition is just one of the many examples.” (SOURCE)
We Use CrossFit’s Approved Methods to Improve All Levels of Fitness
CrossFit workouts are intended to be adaptable to all ability levels and intensity goals. You do what your body can support, and if it is too hard (not if it feels too hard! There’s a difference!) and you find yourself unable to complete movements in a steady pattern, you reduce the weight or the volume of repetitions. At Black Hive Athletics, despite the shutdown, we still proudly provide coaching and guidance to our members online. Our goal is to continue to provide first class training remotely via our daily WOD videos and coach interactions online with our members.
There’s no easy cheat code to being healthy though, and it takes work. If you need help and guidance in your fitness journey, we’re still here.
Journal Articles Referenced:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2803113/ Stephen A. Martin, Brandt D. Pence, and Jeffrey A. Woods
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2020.101508, Zhen Yan, Hannah R. Spaulding