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Neighbors of Kane County


Walk down main street USA, and you'll get as many opinions about the Pandemic as there are ice cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins. Whether or not you agree with your neighbor, there's one truth that stands out. An unhealthy lifestyle (a lack of exercise and a poor diet) increases the risk of viral infections and complications independent of vaccination. Despite countless CDC press conferences, most Americans still don't understand this connection. For decades, we've known that lifestyle influences the risk of developing degenerative diseases (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.).[1] Thanks to new groundbreaking research, we know exercise can strengthen your immune system and lower your risk of contracting infectious diseases.[2]

Last year the World Health Organization updated its Physical Activity Guidelines. The guidelines represent a significant step forward in public health. However, a member of the expert panel that helped formulate the guidelines identified a gap in the research. According to Dr. Sebastian Chastin, a Professor of Health Behavior Dynamics, in the School of Health and Life Sciences, at Glasgow Caledonian University, the new guidelines did not address the relationship between exercise and infectious disease. In other words, they only looked at the connection between degenerative diseases and exercise (i.e., cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, dementia, etc.). Dr. Chastin, known for his prolific contributions to exercise research, quickly organized his team and began synthesizing a review of evidence-based research on the relationship between exercise and infectious diseases. Dr. Chastin was hopeful that exercise could play a role in controlling the Pandemic.

Earlier this year, Dr. Chastin's team published their groundbreaking research demonstrating the power of exercise to fight off infections by enhancing the immune system. The study revealed three critical insights about physical activity and infectious disease transmission. First, exercise strengthens the outer layer of the immune system that prevents viruses from entering the body. The vast majority of infections begin in the mucosal surfaces, including the mouth, eyes, and nose. Specific antibodies protect these surfaces, which provide a barrier that prevents viruses from entering the body. Exercise works by increasing IgA antibodies (immunoglobulin, type A) in mucosal surfaces, effectively reducing infection rates.[2]

Second, the immune system changes in response to exercise, specifically CD4 T-cells. These surveillance cells that alert the immune system that something may be wrong are increased in response to exercise. They are also responsible for orchestrating the immune response, influencing how our bodies respond to an infectious assault. This enhanced immune system response lowers mortality rates among infected exercisers.[3]

Third, if you exercise for at least twelve weeks before being vaccinated, your body will respond more strongly to the vaccination, which makes every dose of the vaccine count. These findings are relevant to the current Pandemic and immunizations across the board (i.e., annual immunizations to flu, etc.). The amount of exercise necessary to stimulate these positive changes is consistent with the current World Health Organization Guidelines on Physical Activity (approximately 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day). In summary, regular exercise can improve your primary barrier, preventing viruses from entering the body. If a virus does enter the body, the cells that orchestrate the immune response increase in number and functional ability, effectively lowering mortality rates. Lastly, the vaccination itself is also more effective in exercisers.[3],[4]

As new viruses develop and existing viruses replicate (reproduce), there's never been a better time to live The Strength Training Lifestyle. It turns out that your immune system can better mount a strong defense against viral attacks if you're an exerciser. Based on the current World Health Organization Guidelines on Physical Activity, structured exercise (i.e., supervised Strength Training) and unstructured activity (i.e., walking, biking, hiking, etc.) contribute to an antiviral lifestyle. If you're not living The Strength Training Lifestyle, it's time to get into the game and be ANTIVIRAL!


1. World Health Organization 2020 Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior.

2. Effects of Regular Physical Activity on the Immune System, Vaccination and Risk of Community-Acquired Infectious Disease in the General Population.

3. Effects of Regular Physical Activity on the Immune System, Vaccination and Risk of Community-Acquired Infectious Disease in the General Population.

4. Joint association between accelerometry-measured daily in a combination of time spent in physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep and all-cause mortality; a pooled analysis on six prospective cohorts using compositional analysis.

By Richard J. Wolff, RD

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