The world’s hopes of getting back to a pre-pandemic “normal” are largely pinned on one thing: a vaccine. But if history is any indication, there will be bumps and hiccups as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out. The good news: You don’t have to sit idly by and wait until the right vaccine is available. Multiple studies suggest there’s one simple thing you can do today to likely make an immunization more effective later: exercise.
The effects seem to work, research shows, whether you’re young and athletic or elderly and sedentary. In studies of various demographics, regular exercise extended or improved the participants’ responses to, in these instances, a flu vaccine.
The key word there is regular. Improved immunity corresponds with the increased fitness from habitual training, not a single bout of exercise before immunization. (Although, interestingly, performing eccentric upper-body exercises about six hours before an injection may enhance your immune response to a vaccine.)
The intensity of the exercise also matters. For example, in the study done with older adults, cardiovascular workouts over a 10-month period boosted the immune response but flexibility training did not. Likewise, in the study done with athletes, more intense training was linked with a better response to vaccination.
As a bonus, exercise is a proven stress reliever—something we all could use as we wait for a COVID vaccine to arrive.