Here’s what doctors have to say about the results of a new study on vaccines.
Exercise has a wide range of health benefits beyond keeping fit, and one of the most important is boosting immunity. And as it turns out, getting regular exercise can increase the benefits of your COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new study.
Researchers surveyed 200,000 men and women in South Africa, collecting data on vaccines, COVID outcomes, and exercise routines. They found that the COVID vaccine was effective in protecting them against serious infections. However, it was most effective in those who exercised frequently.
How Can Exercise Help the Effectiveness of the COVID Vaccine?
As the study showed, people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine (Ad26.COV2.S) and exercised at high levels were almost 3 times less likely to be hospitalized for COVID than people who had been vaccinated but had only low levels. to exercise, William Liinternationally renowned medical doctor, researcher, Angiogenesis Foundation President/Founder and author Eat to beat the disease, explains. This study was unique because it looked at the difficult endpoint of hospitalization and also documented exercise with wearable devices.
Researchers have known for some time that exercise stimulates the immune system and can increase the immune response to the vaccine by creating more protective antibodies in the blood. Dr. Li notes that exercise also activates immune T cells that destroy viruses and enhances the layer of immune defense that lines the nasal passages, where respiratory viruses enter the body.
Regular exercise also promotes better sleep at night, and sleep quality is also important to the immune response.
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An added point: Those who take the time to exercise, especially those who do high-intensity exercise, are more likely to take better care of their overall health, including choosing a healthier diet and lifestyle. Dr. Li shows that dietary choices such as consuming more whole plant-based foods, particularly blueberries, tree nuts, and omega-3-rich seafood, boost immunity.
Yale Medicine’s Dr. “We have limited data on the effect of exercise on COVID vaccine efficacy,” says F. Perry Wilson. “However, we do know that exercise on its own appears to be quite protective against bad COVID outcomes. People who exercise frequently are significantly less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID complications.”
The BMJ study provides us with the best data suggesting that exercise has a direct effect on the immune response to vaccination and shows that vaccine efficacy is higher among those who exercise more.
This is a really subtle but important point. It is not surprising that sedentary individuals have worse COVID outcomes – this has been shown in many previous studies. However, Dr. Wilson adds that the vaccine should still work in this group. And indeed, it reduces the hospitalization rate by about 60%. But the striking thing is that it works better in the more active group—a group that is generally less likely to be hospitalized.
Exercise is a complex physiological state – it raises your heart rate, dilates certain blood vessels (and constricts others), and increases certain hormone levels (and decreases others), so there are many ways exercise can affect the immune system. Dr. Wilson explains. But it’s no surprise that the overall effect is good: Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, and it’s probably pretty good for your immune system, too.
“There could be many reasons why exercise makes COVID vaccines more effective,” he says. Justen Elbayar, Dr.D., an orthopedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Huntington Medical Group. “According to the study, ‘physical activity has been shown to have effects on many levels, including the organelle level, and allows individuals to have a ‘combination of increased antibody levels, improved T-cell immune surveillance, and psychosocial factors’ that encourage your body to prepare for a stronger immune response, thus making vaccines more effective.”
The Dangers of a Sedentary Lifestyle
The study also showed that the vaccinated group who exercised at least 1 hour per week was 1.4 times less likely to be hospitalized compared to the sedentary and vaccinated participants. This shows that the vaccines are about 12 percent more effective in those who exercise than in those who do not.
“Sedentary lifestyles are associated with weaker health defenses overall, including immunity. This is one explanation for the low effectiveness of vaccination to prevent hospitalization,” says Dr. Li. “People who live a sedentary lifestyle often make poorer dietary choices, which can affect the gut microbiome thereby increasing inflammation and reducing immune responses. Even a little exercise can counteract these effects.”
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Dr. Even short periods of exercise can change the chemicals in your blood (hormones, cytokines, and chemokines) and alter your sugar metabolism, among many other effects, Wilson said. It’s still unclear how these seizures interact with the immune system, but something seems to happen when you exercise that increases the production of immune molecules like antibodies.
Dr. “One of the most important effects of exercise is the improvement in how our bodies heal and deal with injuries and illness,” says Elbayer. “Why vaccines might be more effective in exercisers is probably multifactorial. A stronger immune response to vaccines plays a big role.”
The Amount of Exercise You Need per Week to Reap the Benefits
The BMJ study demonstrated a dose response to the efficacy of the COVID vaccine in preventing hospitalization. Dr. Li explains that people who get the most benefit exercise at least 150 minutes per week at a level that raises their heart rate to 70-80% of maximum.
But even moderate exercise, defined as 60 to 149 minutes per week, was beneficial for reducing the risk of hospitalization.
Bottom line: When it comes to benefiting from the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines in this study, a little exercise was better than none, and the more people exercised, the more protection they got. This shows that there are steps people can take to improve the effectiveness of other vaccines, adds Dr. Li.
“The BMJ study suggests a dose-response relationship here. This means that even minimal exercise can result in some benefit and more exercise can lead to greater benefit,” Dr. Wilson says. That’s what I always say – do whatever exercise you can and try to do a little more when you’re comfortable doing it.”
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