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06 Jan 2022
Vaccines are more effective in people who exercise
By Tom Walker
Vaccines are more effective in people who exercise
People who exercise have 50 per cent greater chance of having a strong immune response
Photo: Shutterstock/Halfpoint
Physically active people are 50 per cent more likely to develop higher levels of antibodies after receiving a vaccine, when compared to those who are physically inactive.

The finding comes from a study ​​by Glasgow Caledonian University, which suggests that getting people to exercise can significantly increase the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns.

The study also found that 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week decreases the risk of falling ill and dying of infectious diseases by 37 per cent.

According to Professor Sebastien Chastin, one of the study's authors, the findings could have important implications for future pandemic responses.

Writing for the World Economic Forum, Chastin said: "We already know that physical activity is one of most effective ways to prevent chronic diseases, along with following a healthy diet and not smoking. A previous study from 2008 already found that physical inactivity is responsible for more than five million premature deaths every year.

"Now, our systematic review of the evidence shows that regular physical activity strengthens the human immune system, reduces the risk of falling ill and dying from infectious disease by more than a third and significantly increases the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns.

"This has important implications for pandemic responses."

For the study, Chastin and his team gathered and reviewed all available evidence relating to the effect of physical activity on the risk of falling ill and dying from infectious diseases such as pneumonia – a frequent cause of death from COVID-19 – on the functioning of the immune system and on the outcome of vaccination.

"We found reliable evidence that regular physical activity strengthens the human immune system," Chastin added.

"Across 35 independent randomised controlled trials – the gold standard for scientific evidence – regular physical activity resulted in elevated levels of the antibody immunoglobulin IgA.

"This antibody coats the mucosal membrane of our lungs and other parts of our body where viruses and bacteria can enter.

"Regular physical activity also increases the number of CD4+ T cells, which are responsible for alerting the immune system to an attack and regulating its response.

"Finally, in the randomised controlled trials we studied, vaccines appear more effective if they are administered after a programme of physical activity. A person who is active is 50 per cent more likely to have a higher antibody count after the vaccine than somebody who is not active."

To access and read the full research, click here

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