I have been hearing a rumor going around, and it’s based off of a simple question. Does working out weaken your immune system? I wish that I could downvote this question into oblivion, but unfortunately, some people are still entertaining an answer.
Before we get into specifics, I will say right off the bat that no, working out does not weaken your immune system. In fact, it bolsters your immune system. Luckily for us, there are countless peer reviewed papers about this topic, and a ton of supporting evidence.
If there is one thing I have realized in fitness, it is that there are so many different gurus out there who claim to have new information regarding fitness. A new easy pill, if you will. They say things like “do it this way, and you will find results quickly.”
These are the same type of people who are pushing the idea that working out might weaken your immune system. This is just a bunch of nonsense, and you are about to find out why.
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Why working out STRENGTHENS your immune system
I can sit here all day and tell you that working out does not weaken your immune system, but you need to see some evidence. How about five specific reasons why working out does not weaken your immune system?
Reason 1: Your white blood cell count increases circulation
Your white blood cells are your blood cells that fight off infection. We take these for granted, because mostly, we have no idea what is going on in our bloodstream at any given time.
Thankfully, when you exercise, your blood circulation increases, which gives your white blood cells a chance to spot illness quicker. This is great news for anyone who catches colds easily. All you have to do is workout regularly, and your immunity should increase.
Reason 2: Working out decreases stress hormones
How many of us get stressed out? I know that from time to time, I will let stress get the best of me and let it hold me down. But after getting a good workout in, it’s like the stress has melted away.
This is by design. And it is because physical activity decreases the production of stress causing hormones.
Something to consider, however, is if you are constantly stressed out, there might be some other issues at play. Just learn to understand your body, and don’t go overboard if you are habitually stressed. Working out too much can be a problem also.
Working out everyday is not going to help you build muscle. The same thing applies to working out to reduce stress. If you go too far, it might cause stress instead of reducing it.
This brings us back to our original question. Does working out weaken your immune system? It might, if you workout every single day for 4 hours each day. That would be the definition of going too far!
Reason 3: Working out flushes airways and lungs
Intense exercise gets everything flowing in your body. Your heart rate starts pumping, you start sweating, and you breathe heavily. This is great for us, because this helps flush bacteria and buildup out of our lungs.
When you workout regularly (3-4 times per week), this ensures that your lungs stay in good shape. The best type of exercise to do for maximum lung respiration is HIIT workouts. You can check out our post on the best high intensity interval training workouts for beginners at home.
Reason 4: Body temperature increases reduce chances of bacterial growth
I know what you are thinking, isn’t an increase in body temperature bad? Well, while a fever over an extended period of time could be harmful. But the reason for a fever in the first place is your body’s attempt to fight off an infection.
When you increase your body temperature for just a short amount of time, like 1-2 hours, it is actually very beneficial to your body.
Reason 5: Your cardiovascular health depends on it
Your heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body. It is a muscle just like a regular old muscle in your body. And it needs to be exercised.
If you sit on the couch all day and never really get your heart pumping, this is an environment that you don’t want your heart to be in. Do not neglect your cardiovascular health.
Go back to reason number 1 from this post. Your white blood cells need to circulate. By working out and getting your heart pumping, you are increasing the efficiency at which your heart pumps blood.
What might be making you sick?
If you are habitually getting sick, and you are looking for a culprit, it might be something else other than working out.
For me personally, the culprit was drinking alcohol. Not only does alcohol not help with muscle growth, it can lead to decreased immunity. This was definitely the case for me. I would catch a cold 10-15 times PER YEAR!
I stopped drinking alcohol 6 years ago, and I haven’t had a cold since. This is not a guaranteed solution for everyone. But I do highly recommend looking into this option.
Other factors to consider are sleep, environment, and what you are eating. Getting enough sleep improves muscle growth. It also ensures that your immune system is recharging every single night. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep consistently every night.
If you are in a harsh environment with allergens in the air, or straight up pollution, consider your options when it comes to being healthy.
Lastly, pay close attention to what you are eating. If you get sick after eating certain foods, you may have an allergy that weakens your immune system. You might want to go to your doctor and get an allergy test.
Main Point: Does working out weaken your immune system?
As you can see, there is definitive evidence that working out does not weaken your immune system. In fact, it does quite the opposite.
You may have been looking for a culprit for why you are consistently getting sick. But working out is most likely not the reason. Remember that it is possible if you are overworking yourself. This goes for anything, though. If you are doing too much of anything, it is probably not good for you in some way or another.
I encourage you to find a nice workout routine and learn how to make exercise a habit. For beginners, I recommend 3-4 days per week. Once you get more comfortable with exercise, you can add or subtract from your current plan.
What do you think about all this? Does working out weaken your immune system? We would love to hear from you!