Exercise and the Immune System

I hope you are exercising 5-6 times a week for a good hour, but not over one ninety minutes a day, although once in a while that is fine. Although not an ideal program, sporadic exercise like that of “Weekend warriors” also has significant benefits—including better memory—especially if they swim, or play racket sports (see below). If you are professional or school athlete you probably already know that you must take care of yourself real well, that is, compensate for the negative effects of too much exercise. The first article below warns about our immune system getting weaker when we exercise over ninety mnutes, but, it fails to tell you why. If you have been reading my newsletter and blogs you already know that exercise concentrates blood in the brain, heart and muscles, leaving the gut relatively dry, which promotes dysfunction in the microbiome (gut flora) and the lining of the intestines, two critical parts of our Immune system.

Intense or prolonged exercise may leave immune system temporarily weakened.

The New York Times (12/7, Reynolds, Subscription Publication) reports on a review published in the Journal of Applied Physiology finding that “some types of workouts may hinder the immune response…while others bolster it,” and “a few simple precautions, including consuming carbohydrates during exhausting workouts, might help to keep our immune systems robust.” Review author Jonathan M. Peake, a lecturer in sports science at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, explained that during exercise the immune system is stimulated, but that after exercise the resultant decline often leaves people with “fewer natural killer cells in their blood” than before. Co-author Oliver Neubauer, a senior research fellow at Queensland, said, “Ingesting carbohydrates during vigorous exercise may help” by stabilizing blood sugar levels and so reducing “the body’s stress response.” This would only be necessary for “high-intensity or prolonged exercise that lasts for 90 minutes or more.”

Exercising like a “weekend warrior” may be as beneficial as working out daily.

“The AP (1/9, Marchione) reports that research published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests individuals “who pack their workouts into one or two sessions a week lower their risk of dying over roughly the next decade nearly as much as people who exercise more often.” Reuters (1/9, Rapaport) reports that investigators looked at survey data on more than 63,000 “people from 1994 to 2012 to see how different exercise patterns influence the risk of death from all causes, heart disease and cancer.” Study “participants…were typically followed for almost nine years.”

Newsweek (1/9, Firger) reports that the study indicated “the risk of death from all causes was about 30 percent lower for weekend warriors, compared with adults who maintained a sedentary lifestyle.” Meanwhile, weekend “warriors had a 40 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death and an 18 percent lower risk for cancer-related death.” The data also indicated that “the mortality rates of weekend warriors were” approximately “the same as those who claimed to exercise more than two days a week but for shorter durations.”

Racquet sports most effective at reducing risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

Reuters (11/29, Kelland) reports on a study published in the British Journal and Sports Medicine, based on “data from 11 annual health surveys for England and Scotland carried out between 1994 and 2008, covering 80,306 adults with an average age of 52,” found that “swimming, racquet sports and aerobics are associated with the best odds of staving off death, and in particular of reducing the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.” It found that the risk of death was reduced the most by racquet sports (47 percent), swimming (28 percent), aerobics (27 percent), and cycling (15 percent), while racquet sports reduced the risk of death from heart disease and stroke by 56 percent, compared to 41 percent for swimming, and 36 percent for aerobics.

TIME (11/29, Park) reports one reason why swimming and racquet sports showed a greater reduction in risk is that they “inherently require a pretty intense level of exercise.”

Study suggests exercise may boost long-term memory.

The New York Times (8/24, Reynolds) reports in its “Well” blog that a 2014 study on mice suggested that exercise might have detrimental effects on long-term memory. Meanwhile, in a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience “researchers decided to replicate aspects of the 2014 mouse experiment but instead use rats” because research has shown rat brains “are more similar to our brains.” The new study found that rats that exercised displayed long-term memory as good as sedentary rats and had developed “about twice as many new cells as did the brains of the sedentary animals.”

Hugo Rodier, MD is an integrative physician based in Draper, Utah who specializes in healing chronic disease at the cellular level by blending proper nutrition, lifestyle changes, & allopathic practices when necessary.

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Information on this blog is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this blog for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Please consult your health care practitioner with any questions or concerns you may have.