Study: The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system (and my least favorite part of my job)
Nearly every day, I remind myself how fortunate I am that I get to engage in work that is so incredibly good for people. I fell in love with strength training when I was 14 years old and it’s been the only career I’ve ever known. However, if I’m honest, when I chose this profession (and the focus on strength training), I had no idea how powerfully positive strength training was going to be proven to be from a health and medical standpoint. I can’t even pretend to suggest that my thinking was prophetic. I simply liked lifting weights. Over the last two decades, the scientific and medical community has produced an overwhelming amount of data articulating the robust health benefits of strength training; benefits like improved cognition, protection from cardiovascular disease, and… improved immunity.
Now to my least favorite aspect of my job. Because I own Discover Strength, if I espouse the benefits of strength training, my evangelizing can be perceived as self-serving or inherently biased (and I understand this). To this end, I’ve made a conscious focus, for 14 years, to understate the value of intelligent exercise.
My message today is a message that would be easier to deliver if I wasn’t associated with Discover Strength: Protect the asset.
In the midst of COVID-19, I don’t pretend to have answers or prognostications. But I am certain that now, more than ever, we’re wise to Sharpen the Saw; to take care of ourselves.
The evidence based ways we can improve our immunity (and they don’t include buying toilet paper):
- Don’t smoke.
- If you drink, do so in moderation.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
A recent research review titled: The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system (Published last year in the Journal of Sport and Health Science) articulates the robust benefits of exercise on our immune function.
Key take homes from this exhaustive review of the literature include:
- “Acute exercise (moderate-to-vigorous intensity, less than 60 min) is now viewed as an important immune system adjuvant to stimulate the ongoing exchange of distinct and highly active immune cell subtypes between the circulation and tissues. In particular, each exercise bout improves the antipathogen activity of tissue macrophages in parallel with an enhanced recirculation of immunoglobulins, anti-inflammatory cytokines, neutrophils, NK cells, cytotoxic T cells, and immature B cells.”
- “Regular exercise training has an overall anti-inflammatory influence mediated through multiple pathways. Epidemiologic studies consistently show decreased levels of inflammatory biomarkers in adults with higher levels of physical activity and fitness, even after adjustment for potential con-founders such as BMI.”
- “There is increasing evidence that the circulation surge in cells of the innate immune system with each exercise bout and the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect of exercise training have a summation effect over time in modulating tumorigenesis, atherosclerosis, and other disease processes.”
The timing of this research review is fortuitous. We should exercise. High intensity, resistance exercise is the most potent exercise we can do to improve our health and build a robust immune system.
My 70-year old mother just told me, “I haven’t missed a workout; and I won’t.”
Now more then ever: Protect the asset. Sharpen the saw. Prioritize your workouts.