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How training can lower immunity

How training can lower immunity

Further to previous posts about the influence of exercise on immunity, here's an article by Kim Murphy, Immunology researcher at Monash University and Fabien B. Vincent, Rheumatologist; PhD student, Department of Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University, Melbourne Australia, that examines the impact of training on immunity, in particular how it affects our neutrophil and secretory IgA levels:

Some extracts from the article:

"Neutrophils are the most abundant immune cells in our blood and ingest invading microbes. Following exercise, these cells increase in number in two waves: immediately after and several hours following exercise. But while the number of neutrophils increases, their ability to ingest, and therefore destroy, microbes actually decreases.



Secretory IgA (sIgA) is an important protein that plays a major role in protecting us from respiratory infections.



Studies have shown that when the level of sIgA in saliva is high the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) is low, and people with sIgA deficiency suffer from URTIs more than the general population.



The best ways to avoid illness during the training period and immediately before and after competition is to stay away from infectious people (always good advice!), wash hands regularly particularly before eating and avoiding, as much as possible, touching your face. A well-balanced diet, potentially high in carbohydrates, is recommended.

Moderate exercise is associated with positive effects in many areas of life and may be anti-inflammatory. More intense exercise may lead to changes in the immune system, but these seem to be short-lived and may be of little importance in overall health. "



When you've been on a training run, it's important to maintain hydration...

4 Replies

Thanks for this interesting article Neil. I am glad to say that 'intense exercise' is not a problem for me, unless you call gearing myself up to take the dog for a walk 'intense' !

(facetious, I know, apologies if it offends anyone)


Not facetious at all chrisgranny, regrettably not all of us can manage half marathons so it will give me a moment's satisfaction when a jogger pounds past me to ponder on how much damage they may be doing to their immune system! Lol!

You know it's somehow ridiculous when you actually see it in words! Lol

It sounds to me to be a short lived physiological phenomenon and clearly exercise is hugely beneficial long term.


1 like

Bodybuilders have long observed that intense training lowers resistance to infection. Glutamine supplementation reduces this risk.


The idea of over training or severe hard training causing a lowering of the immune system is logical.

What is needed is moderate to strong exercise, without over doing the total daily exercise levels.

Where a person fits in this sliding scale can only be determined by experience, or some very sophisticated research laboratory, such as Loughborough University in the UK.

However the idea of exercising assisting our postponing of treatment, or recovery from treatment is well known.

New research backs up the idea that prolonged aerobic exercise induces a large systemic inflammatory response, which may lead to an infection due to a suppression of the immune system.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME the research has shown that ginger, ( Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes) can decrease the pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in male endurance runners.

‘Our findings indicate that prolonged intense training for 6 weeks in well-trained male endurance runners can significantly elevate post-exercise plasma levels of several pro-inflammatory cytokines and that a ginger using period of 6 weeks will essentially reverse these elevations.’

To add to the mix, doctor Hamblin suggested that cytokines are the likely cause of fatigue in those with CLL. Thus could ginger decrease the pro-inflammatory cytokine levels and reduce fatigue..??

OF COURSE you can find loads of websites promoting the beneficial effects of numerous herbs and spices, including ginger. What we need is an organisation such as The Mayo Clinic to undertake some proper research into this. Perhaps this has even been done, though I have not seen it..

Hamblin on cytokines:-


Central European Journal of Immunology on ginger.

The effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on plasma pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in well-trained male endurance runners



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