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Exercise’s Impact on the Immune System

iStock-1270401890In a study looking at the effects of exercise on immune function, Dr. James Turner and Dr. John Campbell from the University of Bath's Department for Health challenged the theory that intense exercise provides an “open window” for infectious diseases to set in. In their paper published in the international journal Exercise Immunology Review, Dr. Turner and Dr. Campbell explain that short-term exercise can help the body target pathogens and long-term exercise slows age-related changes in the immune system. Thus, they concluded that the anecdotal evidence of arduous exercise negatively impacting the immune system is inconclusive, or simply incorrect. The article states that reduced immune system function is more likely linked to stress, low quality sleep, lack of nutrition, or pathogen exposure in densely populated athletic events like marathons.

The researchers hope that the debate article will spark a wave of new research on how exercise impacts the immune system. Dr. Campbell explains, "People should not fear that their immune system will be suppressed by exercise.” He continues, “Regular exercise will have a tremendously positive effect on our health and wellbeing, both today and for the future.” The message that they share is that people should 'move more' and that 'something is better than nothing.'

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