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Here's How Exercise REALLY Affects Your Immune System

There’s a lot that a hard workout session can do to your body, like tire you out or make your muscles ache — but one thing it won’t do is weaken your immune system. That rumor’s been hanging around for a while, but a scientific review recently published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology debunked the idea that high-intensity workouts can set you up for colds and other illnesses.

The review authors revisited a number of key research studies and found limited evidence linking exercise to immune system suppression. In the end, they concluded that being physically active is actually more likely to be beneficial to immune health.

One major theory they pushed back on? The idea that athletes are more likely to get sick than other populations. Any infections athletes get, the researchers concluded, seem to be more likely due to physical, nutritional, and psychological factors (think: fatigue, an imbalanced diet, or stress), rather than because of exercising too hard.

The review authors also took another look at research that claimed that changes in exercise habits lowers the amount of the immunoglobulin in your mucus and saliva that blocks pathogens from getting into your system. But one study found that secretion of immunoglobulin increased after exercise, making infection less likely. Along the same lines, the review didn’t find much evidence that working out upped your risk of getting sick from a weakened immune system.

Most importantly, they found that these effects last even after your workout is over. Despite how beat you might feel after a killer sweat session, the scientists found that your body goes into a heightened state of immune surveillance and regulation—and actually works to wipe out any bad cells during that time.

So now you know how exercise can help—but how can you take care of your body? You probably already know how important it is to stay hydrated during exercise, but adding Emergen-C Hydration+ to your water before, during, or after your workout can help you replace key electrolytes and give you vitamin C to help support your immune system. And for added support for your immune system any time, you can try a vitamin drink mix like Emergen-C Immune+, which provides vitamins C, D, and electrolytes, and comes in great flavors like raspberry.

Also, gyms can be kinda gross. The treadmill, exercise bike, and free weights were all teeming with germs—more than 1 million per square inch each—in a study conducted by the equipment review site Fitrated in conjunction with EmLab P&K. (Fun fact: The free weights are home to 362 times more germs than a toilet seat.) The germs they found were linked to skin infections; eye, ear, and respiratory infections; and other illnesses. So for the love of hygiene, please wipe down equipment after you use it and wash your hands before and after you work out.


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