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Folk wisdom has long stated that exercise will reduce your chances of getting sick. But is that true? Two recent reports say, decidedly, yes.

A 2022 meta-analysis of 16 studies in the BMJ included more than 1.8 million people around the globe. Researchers found that those who stayed physically active had a lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19 compared with people who were not active.

And a 2021 systematic review of 55 studies in Sports Medicine revealed that regular physical exercise boosted the immune system’s ability to fight off “community-acquired infectious disease” in general.

These are some of the key findings.

  1. 31 % Percentage lower risk of contracting “community-acquired infectious disease” — including respiratory-tract infections, such as colds and pneumonia — among those who were habitually physically active. Sports Medicine also reported a 37 percent risk reduction in overall infectious-disease mortality.
  2. 150 Minimum number of minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week that was found to be of benefit, according to the BMJ. Seventy-five minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise produced similar results.
  3. “Regular, moderate to vigorous physical activity is associated with reduced risk of community-acquired infectious diseases and infectious-disease mortality; enhances the first line of defense of the immune system; and increases the potency of vaccination.”

— Authors of the Sports Medicine meta-analysis

This article originally appeared as “The Role of Exercise in Strengthening Your Immune System” in the March 2023 issue of Experience Life.

Michael Dregni

Michael Dregni is an Experience Life deputy editor.

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