Can Exercise Affect Immune Function to Increase Susceptibility to Infection?
“Multiple studies in humans and animals have demonstrated the profound impact that exercise can have on the immune system. There is a general consensus that regular bouts of short-lasting (i.e. up to 45 minutes) moderate intensity exercise is beneficial for host immune defense, particularly in older adults and people with chronic diseases. In contrast, infection burden is reported to be high among high performance athletes and second only to injury for the number of training days lost during preparation for major sporting events. This has shaped the common view that arduous exercise (i.e. those activities practiced by high performance athletes/ military personnel that greatly exceed recommended physical activity guidelines) can suppress immunity and increase infection risk.
However, the idea that exercise per se can suppress immunity and increase infection risk independently of the many other factors (e.g. anxiety, sleep disruption, travel, exposure, nutritional deficits, environmental extremes, etc.) experienced by these populations has recently been challenged. The purpose of this debate article was to solicit opposing arguments centered around this fundamental question in the exercise immunology field: can exercise affect immune function to increase susceptibility to infection.”