Exercise and the Immune System

by Bethany Kelsey | July 14, 2020, 10:03 AM

Immune Function

The human immune system is incredible and complex.  In simple terms, the immune system protects the body from harmful elements.  It is your body’s defense system.  Amazingly, you possess the ability to strengthen or weaken your immune system.


Exercise is a double-edged sword when it is associated with immune system function.  When exercise is performed in excess, immune function is weakened.  Alternatively, when exercise is performed in the appropriate amount, immune function is strengthened.

Will you join me in determining what is “excess” and what is “appropriate” for you?  Let’s work together to strengthen your immune system!


There exists the very real potential to exercise too much.  When  exercise is done in excess, the body experiences what is called over-training.  Common symptoms of over-training include decreased performance, chronic fatigue, weight loss, abnormally elevated heart rate during exercise, increased incidence of injury, and increased number of infections.  At the core of over-training is over-stressing the body and not allowing it the appropriate recovery time.

How do you know if you are over-training?  Are you experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms?  Are you dragging yourself to your workouts?  If so, you may be experiencing over-training.  If you suspect over-training, please talk with your physician to discuss a recovery plan.


What amount of exercise is the proverbial “sweet spot” and will strengthen your immune system?  The scientific research shows that performing a moderate amount of exercise, at a moderate intensity is the key.  Moderate intensity, specifically cardiovascular activity, is defined as 55-69% of your heart rate max (HRmax), performed for 20-60 minutes, 3-5 days per week.

HRmax is calculated as 220-age.  For example, if you are 40 years old, your HRmax = 220-40=180 beat per minute.  Your heart rate training zone sweet spot is then 55-69% of 180 or 99-124 beats per minute.


Stress, excessive exercise poor nutrition, and improper hygiene are all associated with decreased immune function.  Would you consider choosing one facet of immune health to strengthen in your life this month?  Perhaps you are already exercising in the sweet spot, but you are curious about how your nutrition is affecting your immune health.  Our next blog is dedicated to nutrition and immune function.

Now is the time for the win!  A little preventive work for your immune system is going to set you up beautifully to ward off the next cough or sneeze.

Until next time, Bethany and Jordan

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