Immunity and Over Exercising - Is There a Link?

Over Exercising

In one of our previous blogs we explored the role that regular physical exercise plays on our immune system. We highlighted the article entitled Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature (1) which was published in July 2020 and summarised the main points from that article. That blog can be found here: Maintaining Immunity – The Role of Regular Physical Activity and Other Factors

What we didn't get a chance to explore in that blog, however, was the role that over exercising plays on our immune system. The main point that the article made on this subject was that exhaustive physical exercise, before or during an infectious condition (90 min of moderate to high intensity physical activity), such as influenza or COVID-19, can trigger severe illness due to changes in the immune system. This occurs due to the production of anti-inflammatory agents (Th2 anti-inflammatory cytokines) in order to reduce muscle tissue damage, but in strenuous activities this effect can reach immunosuppression levels.

So what is the right amount of exercise to protect yourself?

The American College of Sports Medicine (2), in its broad position statement has recommended that:

  • Adults should perform strength training, at least 2 times a week, which involves most major muscle groups, at an intensity 70-85% of the muscle’s maximum intensity.
  • Adults should perform 150 minutes (or 5 times 30 minutes) of moderate intensity (Which means that you are somewhat puffed and you can’t easily hold a conversation during the activity) of aerobic exercise each week.


1. Pelinski da Silveira M, Kamila da Silva Fagundes K, Bizuti M R, Starck E, Rossi R C, Tavares de Resende e Silva D (2020) Physical Exercise as a Tool to Help the Immune System Against COVID-19: An Integrative Review of the Current Literature. Clinical and Experimental Medicine, July 29th, P1-14.

2. Chodzko-Zajko, W. J., Proctor, D. N., Fiatarone Singh, M. A., Minson, C. T., Nigg, C. R., Salem, G. J., & Skinner, J. S. (2009). Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults. MEDICINE & SCIENCE IN SPORTS & EXERCISE, 1510-1530.