The immune system keeps us healthy on a day to day basis by fighting any infection. The immune system is made up of proteins including antibodies, white blood cells, organs (such as the spleen) and other chemicals that help us prevent bacteria from attacking us.

Physical activity helps boost the immune system in many different ways. One of the most important ways in which exercise helps boost the immune system is by causing subtle changes in antibodies and white blood cells. The changes mean that the white blood cells and antibodies are able to move around the body more regularly, therefore detecting the origin of infection faster. If infection is detected earlier the immune system is able to start fighting illness faster. Not only does exercise allow white blood cells to circulate regularly around the body it also increases the number of white blood cells in the body – making it easier to fight the infection.

The beneficial effect of exercise on the immune system has been proven in many studies. The Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal reported that with 12 weeks of prescribed exercise individuals had better function in cells that are linked with the immune system than their inactive counterparts. The improvement in the immune system function is irrespective of age and has been proven in both older and younger individuals.

What type of exercise causes this boost in the immune system?

The immune system mainly benefits from a moderate level of exercise. Moderate exercise is something which causes you to be slightly out of breath and raise your body temperature for around 30 minutes. You may class this type of exercise as a 5 or 6 out of 10 on a difficulty spectrum where 10 is your are at your maximum. This is exactly the style of physical activity or exercise we prescribe at HSW.


Webmd: Component of the immune system’.

Medline Plus: “Exercise and Immunity.”

American College of Sports Medicine: “Exercise and the Common Cold.”

MedicineNet: “Exercise Restraint When Sick.”

Nienman. D.C., Henson. D.A., Guesewitch. G., Warren. B.J., Dotson. R.C., Butterworth. D. & Nehlsen-Cannarella, S.L. (1993) ‘Physical acitivty and immune function in elderly women’, Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.