Can exercise affect your immune system?
Exercise and physical activity are both incredibly good for your health. They help improve your mood and reduce stress, decrease the risk of certain diseases, and if you're lucky enough to get over it, a great workout can also be a significant mood boost too!
But when active people (and especially athletes) push themselves too far or too soon, their bodies can suffer. Think muscle soreness, shortness of breath, lethargy, and fatigue.
But it's not just the body that will suffer. The immune system does too! We challenge you to think of the last time you were feeling a little under the weather... before or during this time had you started a new exercise regimen? We're you training harder than you usually would but not getting the results you might expect. We're you having to alter or skip training sessions because of a lack of energy or even motivation.
These are all potential signs of exercise (in the short term) compromising our immune system leaving us vulnerable to illness, excessive fatigue and even injury.
In today's blog, you will learn a little more about some of the negative impacts that exercise can have on the immune system as well as what can be done to provide your immune system a helping hand... and spoiler alert, our immune system doesn't just need an assist during winter!
Really you ask. Yes, and you'll have to keep reading to find out why...
Whilst over the long term, regular exercise has been shown to positively benefit the health and function of our immune system and immune response; in the short-term strenuous exercise can have the opposite effect.
This is because strenuous exercise temporarily suppresses your immune system and dampens the immune response, leaving us more susceptible to illness and fatigue which can lead to adjusted or missed training and can even increase the likelihood of injury too.
But exercise isn’t the only thing that can negatively impact our immune system. Other environmental factors include:
- Inadequate recovery time between workouts
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Poor sleep quality & quantity
- Life stressors, anxiety, and depression
- Environmental extremes e.g., extreme hot or cold climates
- Extended periods of travel
In Lehmann's terms, all these factors combined equal a body that just isn't able to cope and immune system that isn't able to protect us as well as it usually would.
But why does this happen?
Well, it's no surprise that we all lead incredibly busy daily lives and often squeeze in our active time at the very last minute - we know we've been there.
As a result of this, the recovery process is often not given as much focus or attention as it probably should – inhibiting our body’s ability to physically (and mentally) recover between workouts which can lead to burnout, injuries, and illness.
Our immune system comes under extra stress during the winter months due to colder, shorter, and darker days but what often people don’t realise is that even during the warmer months of spring and summer our immune system function can still become compromised.
Generally, during the spring and summer months athletes and active people alike are training at their hardest and perhaps even completing challenges or taking part in races and competitions. These stressors combined can not only create significant amount of muscular damage but also increasing levels of fatigue (if not managed properly) all of which can suppress our immune system leaving us susceptible to illness.
Therefore, the role of nutrition in supporting our immune system both on active days and recovery days, in winter and during the spring and summer months cannot be understated and having a tool kit of essential supplements to hand can give you a fighting chance against illness, fatigue and even injury.
When it comes to supporting your immune system, yes, our regular diet should in theory be more than capable of providing the nutrition it needs. Certain vitamins and minerals are essential and can be found in the foods we eat regularly.
But sometimes, dietary restrictions, food available, food quality or simply a reduced appetite can mean that we will often be deficient in important vitamins and minerals, putting our immune system at risk.
In fact, it's a lesser-known fact that even in the summer months, more often than not we will probably be vitamin D deficient - despite all the sunny weather.
All of this added together is exactly why vitamin and mineral supplements are popular choices when it comes to filling in those gaps. They become a highly beneficial safety blanket when we know our immune system is up against it or when we want to protect it.
Products that contain things like vitamin D3, B vitamins, probiotics & prebiotics and even colostrum are all going to be highly beneficial and provide that extra support your immune system might need; whatever the weather.
Supplements like our active greens, active balance and active vitamin D3 have been carefully formulated to provide you the correct ingredients at optimal doses to support the normal function of a whole host of body systems and functions; and especially our immune system.