Sport should strengthen the immune system and reduce stress. But are athletes really more robust? If yes why? What happens in the body during endurance exercise? We did some research.
immune system becomes active
Due to constant endurance exertion, the strained muscles are under permanent stress. This results in the smallest processes that activate the immune system. The immune system now begins with anti-inflammatory countermeasures. And while it's already at work, the activated immune system looks around for other sources of inflammation in the body. According to the motto: what is done is done. As a result, our whole "system" becomes stronger and the organism is better protected.
A lot of negative stress also reduces the number of immune cells in the body and thus weakens the immune system. Physical activity also reduces stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Thus, sport keeps the stress hormone level at a low level and promotes well-being and happiness. This means that our immune system works better.
Caution: "Open Window Effect"
However, scientific studies have also shown that after an intensive and extensive training load, the body's immune system is functionally weakened for up to three days and infectious diseases occur more frequently during this time. Mental stress such as stress can also cause or exacerbate this phenomenon.
Leukocytes, the white blood cells, are part of the human immune system and serve to protect the immune system, i.e. they have the task of eliminating pathogens and foreign structures. During physical exertion, the number of leukocytes initially rises significantly, only to fall steeply below the initial level after the end of the exertion. This opens a “window to the body” for pathogens, so to speak, and they can easily multiply and spread. This condition is often described as the "open window effect" .
There is a particular danger of catching an infection in the transitional seasons, in intensive and extensive training phases, after returning from the training camp and after competitions.
The same applies to training as to many other situations: Enjoyed in moderation, sport strengthens the immune system. Regular, low-intensity endurance training in particular helps to get through the cold season in good health.
After intensities, you should not only pay attention to appropriate clothing and good nutrition. Above all, it is important to find the right balance between stress and regeneration. This is the only way the immune system can keep up with you!