Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 21 October |
Saint of the Day: St. Wendel
Aleteia logo
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

The best kinds of exercise to boost your immune system



Calah Alexander - published on 05/27/20

Boosting our immunity is especially important today, but not all exercise is created equal, so here's a guide...

Although quarantine restrictions are beginning to lift around the country, the threat of COVID-19 is far from over. As we start to spend more time in public, our chances of coming into contact with this virus, along with many other seasonal viruses, will gradually increase — which means that now, more than ever, is the time to bolster our immune systems.

We all know how important eating well and exercising are in maintaining good health, but you might not know that the type of exercise you do matters — some can even temporarily diminish  your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to sickness. So what’s the right type of exercise to do to keep your immune system in peak condition? So glad you asked!

1More is not better

When it comes to exercising and your immune system, more is not better. In fact, several studies have shown that long, endurance-style training sessions (think 10-mile runs or 2-hour bike rides) actually temporarily diminish your immune function for hours afterward. This is because long, exhausting workouts act as stressors on your body, causing a spike in stress hormones and inflammation. Although this response is temporary, it can nevertheless leave you more vulnerable to viruses for up to 24 hours afterward — which becomes a real problem if you engage in this type of exercise daily.

2Work harder, not longer

Instead of long, exhausting workouts, the best type of exercise for your immune system is actually short bouts of high-intensity exercise — think circuit or HIIT training. Getting your heart rate up fairly high (think 80-90% of your max, which should leave you panting with exertion) actually stimulates the production of microphages, the cells that attack bacteria and viruses. Short bursts of all-out effort will give you this immune-boosting response without causing your body to go into an immune-depleted state of stress. The best part? It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you choose — interval sprints, rounds on a punching bag, even energetic stair-climbing or front yard freeze-tag can provide you with an extra burst of microphages (and energy!).

3Location matters

Although the type of HIIT training you choose doesn’t really matter, where you choose to exercise absolutely does. Whenever possible, you should choose to exercise outdoors. Not only will being outdoors drastically limit your exposure to respiratory-borne viral particles, but there’s also increasing evidence that high levels of  Vitamin D offer protection from the worst forms of COVID-19. Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to severe and prolonged cases of COVID-19, while those with higher-than-normal levels of Vitamin D seem to fare better. Sunlight is unquestionably the best way to obtain Vitamin D — and given that we’re just entering springtime, we could all use a solid dose of sunshine!

4Have fun!

Finally, the best possible way to implement a workout program you’ll stick with — during this pandemic and afterward — is to make it fun. Moving our bodies should be enjoyable, so making this a form of play rather than punishment is essential. If you dread your daily workout, your body will release stress hormones no matter what type of exercise you choose to engage in, so spend some time thinking about the ways you enjoy moving. If you hate running but love dancing, find some Zumba classes on YouTube and take your laptop outside for a little backyard dance session. If the idea of a structured workout with your toddlers underfoot makes you reach for a paper bag to breathe into, teach them how to play leapfrog and hopscotch instead. Call it recess instead of a workout, and get your whole family outside for some immune-boosting family fun time.

This quarantine has been stressful enough on all of us — the last thing we need is one more stressor. So have some fun in the sun, and rest easy knowing that whatever you do can make a big difference!


Read more:
The 3 best exercises for women over 40


Read more:
How to pray while you exercise

CoronavirusHealth and Wellness
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
saint teresa of Avila
Zelda Caldwell
Now there’s a computer font based on St. Teresa of Avila’s handwr...
Philip Kosloski
A scientist describes the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima
Agnès Pinard Legry
Three brothers ordained priests on the same day in the Philippine...
Philip Kosloski
How the violence in ‘Squid Game’ can impact your soul
Theresa Civantos Barber
12 Catholic Etsy shops to support as the holidays draw closer
Gelsomino Del Guercio
She’s a mom, grandmother, former postmaster — and a cloistered nu...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
A martyr’s last letter to his mother
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.