Story at a glance
- Researchers from Iowa State University studied the impact of immediate exercise on people after getting a COVID-19 or influenza vaccine.
- The results found a consistent increase in serum antibody response four weeks post-immunization in those participants who exercised for 90-minutes after getting their vaccine.
- Participants who exercised for only 45-minutes post-immunization did not increase their antibody levels.
Exercise may not be the first thing most Americans want to do after getting a vaccine shot, but researchers have found that the immediate physical activity may provide a boost of antibodies.
Researchers at Iowa State University published new research in ScienceDirect and found that 90 minutes of mild-to moderate-intensity exercise, like an outdoor walk or jog, after a flu or COVID-19 vaccine resulted in an extra immune boost.
The study examined three different vaccines, one dose of a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine, a seasonal influenza vaccine and a H1N1 flu vaccine. For participants that exercised for 90-minutes in light-to moderate intensity exercise right after immunization, researchers noted a consistently increased serum antibody response to each vaccine four-weeks post-immunization.
“Our preliminary results are the first to demonstrate a specific amount of time can enhance the body’s antibody response to the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine and two vaccines for influenza,” said Marian Kohut, lead author of the paper and a kinesiology professor at Iowa State University, in a statement.
Notably, the study found exercise did not increase side effects after a COVID-19 vaccination.
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Nearly half of the participants in the study had a body mass index in the overweight or obese category and during the 90-minutes of post-immunization exercise, kept their heart rate around 120 to 140 beats per minute, rather than focusing on distance.
Researchers suggested that this provides evidence that the study’s results could directly benefit people with a range of fitness levels.
Researchers also tested participants who exercised for only 45-minutes post-immunization, versus 90-minutes, and found the shorter workout did not increase their antibody levels.
“But a lot more research is needed to answer the why and how. There are so many changes that take place when we exercise – metabolic, biochemical, neuroendocrine, circulatory. So, there’s probably a combination of factors that contribute to the antibody response we found in our study,” said Kohut.
Working out increases the body’s blood and lymph low, which helps circulate immune cells. Once these cells are moving around the body, they’re more likely to detect something that’s foreign.
However, not nearly as many adults are as active as they should be, as a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a quarter of U.S. adults are physically inactive.
The health repercussions of not getting enough physical activity can be severe, as the CDC warns that heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer are some of the risk factors, along with obesity. People of all ages and conditions can benefit from more physical activity, as it contributes to normal growth and development, reduces risk of chronic diseases, helps people function better throughout the day and sleep better at night.
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