Exercise, Immunity and Stress


At a time when we are all concerned about the risk of infection to us and our loved ones it’s worth considering what we can do to boost our immune system and the part that movement and exercise can play.

In addition to fuelling our bodies with adequate levels of nutrients (this includes fats, carbohydrates and protein) Exercise can play a valuable part in our immunity.

Research shows (link to source below*) that the immune system is very responsive to exercise, and that moderate to vigorous exercise for 20 – 60 minutes can reduce inflammation in the body and the really important one – reduces stress hormones that can suppress immune cell function.

As we know stress can put many strains on us and manifests itself in many ways, in the form of headaches, insomnia, anxiety, tightness in muscle, aches and pains, low moods, and difficulty focusing. Anything that we can do to help reduce stress in our day to day life can only be good for our immunity against viruses.

While we are living through the pandemic it is well worth finding a way to move our bodies as many days in the week as possible if not every day for at least 20 – 60 minutes.

If this sounds like a lot to fit in consider that this can include walking, cycling, dancing, functional strength training (see below), Yoga, Pilates, swimming – the list goes on. This is a great time to try out new things and add more movement into our day. Especially as some of us are not commuting at the moment and we have a little more time available to us.

When you are strength training is worth bearing in mind the intensity of the session. Intense and progressive weight training, has a similar effect to very long-distance running, can cause stress on the body and reduce immunity.

The key is to keep the intensity to something that is a challenge but that is achievable and doable. This is not necessarily the time to make big gains in our training i.e. training for your first marathon or to taking up very long-distance cycling. That said gently and gradually increasing effort over weeks though is the perfect way to get the boost we are looking for.

If we can find movement fun and if we can have a laugh at the same time (which also helps reduce the stress hormones in our system and therefore improving immunity) then we are more likely to do it, look forward to it and create a routine around it.

For me that comes from a dance influenced workout – anything that feels slightly silly usually results in smiles and laughter.

If you love working out in the fresh air why not come along to my Fitness in the Forest classes.

Starting back on 14th September.

Contact me for more information.




*The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defence system – David C. Nieman, Laurel M. Wentz.

The research also found that exercising intensely for over 90 minutes can have a negative effect on the immune system so we need to bear that in mind when we are thinking about a longer workout.

Sara McDonnell

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