Every year we hear the same thing from health experts, “This year’s strain of the flu is the worst yet!” Time to face the music and get that checked off the list of have to/don’t wanna.
There is a new bit of info this year that bodes well for those of us who work out, even a good thing for those of us who do not. Exercise can boost the flu shot’s efficiency!
A 2009 study was conducted on sedentary, older adults, a group whose immune systems typically respond weakly to the flu vaccine. They all began programs of either brisk walking or a balance and stretching routine. After 10 months, the walkers had significantly improved their aerobic fitness and, after receiving flu shots, displayed higher average influenza antibody counts 20 weeks after a flu vaccine than the group who had stretched. “That’s all well and good,” you say, “But how does that affect me? I need my shot now.”
Cue the scientists.
They began to wonder whether a single, well-calibrated bout of exercise might similarly strengthen the vaccine’s potency. The New York Times recently shared this:
Researchers at Iowa State University in Ames recently had young, healthy volunteers, most of them college students, head out for a moderately paced 90-minute jog or bike ride 15 minutes after receiving their flu shot. Other volunteers sat quietly for 90 minutes after their shot. Then the researchers checked for blood levels of influenza antibodies a month later.
Those volunteers who had exercised after being inoculated, it turned out, exhibited “nearly double the antibody response” of the sedentary group, said Marian Kohut, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State who oversaw the study, which is being prepared for publication. They also had higher blood levels of certain immune system cells that help the body fight off infection.
The intensity and duration of the exercise varies. But don’t be surprised this year that, along with a Hello Kitty bandage, you receive a prescription to go for a jog or a walk right after your shot.
Try it. It won’t hurt a bit.