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Study Finds That Exercise Isn’t Necessarily Good For Our Immune System

Study Finds That Exercise Isn’t Necessarily Good For Our Immune System

We are all aware of how exercise helps our body to become better and makes us fitter. But studies have shown that the reverse is also true.

Following the popular saying that too much of a good thing can be bad, it has been revealed through many studies that too much exercise actually harms the body, particularly the immune system. This can come as a surprise to many of us, but the evidence is there.

Intense vs. Moderate Exercise

Several studies have shown that there has been a direct negative effect on the immune system of people who performed strenuous amounts of exercise without a proper amount of rest in between. Various published papers throughout the years have shown evidence of this fact. Hence, these findings cannot and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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A study conducted in Australia, the results of which were published in 2007, brings light to the suggestion that elite trained athletes, i.e. the ones who perform and exercise harder than moderately exercising people are more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections or URTI (generally known as the common cold) than people who exercise in small amounts or recreationally.

The study was conducted among a number of elite athletes or people who maintain a hard routine of exercise and people who perform little to moderate amount of exercise. The end results were found to point to the direction that there is a relatively positive chance that high amount of exercise can link to having a bad immune system and get acute URTI symptoms.

Another study was conducted by the Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, the purpose of which was to provide a summary of how exercising affects the immune system. In the paper published after the study was conducted, it was concluded that exercising too much can, in fact, cause a temporary depression of the immune system. This effect of depression of the immune system is noticeable at its peak if the hour of exercise is prolonged more than 1.5 hours and the intensity is too high.

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Relation between URTI and Exercise Amount

In most of these studies, there appeared a common phenomenon in the relationship between the amount of exercise and the state of the immune system. It usually is depicted as a J-shaped curve. This J-shaped curve shows the relationship between amount and intensity of exercise and the occurrence or prominence of URTI incidence in the people. Those who had lower levels of URTI illness witnessed in them were usually the recreational athletes and people who maintained a moderate amount of exercise, while the substantially higher rates of URTI occurred among the elite athletes.

The following image of the J-curve is taken from a study conducted and published in 1994, and it depicts the relationship between Risk of URTI and Amount and Intensity of Exercise as follows:

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j-curve

    Graph source

    As you can see, it depicts that the way to keep the immune system from any kind of dangerous levels of harm is by pursuing a moderate exercising lifestyle. Whereas, it can be seen that sedentary amount and intensity of exercise, as in those who do too little exercise of lower intensity also possess a threat to their body’s immune system. Likewise, a workout of high intensity and consisting of a longer period of time can be equally, if not more, harmful to the immune system and the body in general.

    Some may argue that this being a graph from a study performed way back in time might not be fully correct, given the fact that recent studies have emerged. But despite slight differences, all studies related to this topic the relationship between of exercise and harm to immune system mostly provides the same conclusion as has been drawn in this article. If all their finding were to be taken and recreated as a graph or a pictorial edition, no doubt the end result would look somewhat similar to the one shown above.

    The Verdict

    Moderation is the key. Exercise too little, and you have the potential danger of making your body unfit, as well as being known as a couch potato. Exercise too much, on the other hand, and you really do have the potential danger of harming your immune system and in turn, your body.

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    So learn to recognize your body’s signals and gut intuitions. Know when your body can’t take it anymore and give it, and yourself, some well-deserved rest.

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    Last Updated on July 23, 2019

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

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    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

    More to Help You Stay Motivated

    Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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