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20 Minutes of Moderate Exercise Boosts Immune System

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  • Physical exercise has various health benefits including strengthening the heart, bones and muscles and reducing the risk of certain diseases.
  • A new study states that a 20-minute session of moderate exercise is enough to stimulate the immune system.
  • Exercise boosts immune system by producing an anti-inflammatory cellular response.

20 Minutes of Moderate Exercise Boosts Immune System

One session of moderate exercise that lasts for 20 minutes produces anti-inflammatory effects.

Regular physical activity has various health benefits, including weight control, strengthening the heart, bones and muscles and reducing the risk of certain diseases.


Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have come up with the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise.

The findings have encouraging implications for chronic diseases like arthritis, fibromyalgia and for more pervasive conditions, such as obesity.

Just 20-minute session of moderate exercise is enough to stimulate the immune system, producing an anti-inflammatory cellular response.

"Each time we exercise, we are truly doing something good for our body on many levels, including at the immune cell level," said senior author Suzi Hong, PhD, in the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Moderate Intensity Exercise

Moderate exercise refers to the intensity of physical activity.

In moderate intensity exercise the following features are apparent :
  • Rapid breathing, but not out of breath
  • Developing a light sweat after about 10 minutes of activity
  • The person can talk but not sing
According to the National Health Services, U.K, it is recommended that per week, adults aged 19-64 years should engage in least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking.

Muscle strengthening exercises should be done for two or more days a week.


"The anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise have been known to researchers, but finding out how that process happens is the key to safely maximizing those benefits." Hong added,

The body's immune system responds by triggering inflammation, which is an integral defense mechanism.

Inflammation is triggered when the body's attempt to heal itself after an injury or as defense against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria, to repair damaged tissue.

But chronic inflammation can lead to serious health issues associated with diabetes, celiac disease, obesity and other conditions.

"Patients with chronic inflammatory diseases should always consult with their physician regarding the appropriate treatment plan, but knowing that exercise can act as an anti-inflammatory is an exciting step forward in possibilities," said Hong.

Effects of Exercise

During exercise, the brain and sympathetic nervous system, which is a pathway that serves to accelerate heart rate and raise blood pressure among are activated to enable the body to carry out work.

Immunological responses including production of many cytokines, or proteins, including tumor necrosis factor (TNF) are triggered as a result of this activation.

TNF is a key regulator of local and systemic inflammation that also helps boost immune responses.

The study included 47 participants who walked on a treadmill at an intensity level suited their fitness level.

Blood was collected before and immediately after the 20 minute exercise challenge.

The results shows that one session of about 20 minutes of moderate treadmill exercise resulted in a 5% decrease in the number of stimulated immune cells producing tumor necrosis factor (TNF).

"Knowing what sets regulatory mechanisms of inflammatory proteins in motion may contribute to developing new therapies for the overwhelming number of individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions, including nearly 25 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune diseases." Hong said.

The findings also show that a workout session does not have to be intense to have anti-inflammatory effects.

Twenty minutes to half-an-hour of moderate exercise, including fast walking, appears to be sufficient.

Hong said "Feeling like a workout needs to be at a peak exertion level for a long duration can intimidate those who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases and could greatly benefit from physical activity."

The study is published online in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

  1. What is moderate and vigorous exercise? - (http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/2419.aspx?CategoryID=52&)
  2. Suzi Hong et al. Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β 2 -adrenergic activation. Brain, Behavior and Immunity ; (2017)

Source: Medindia

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