Can Too Much Exercise Make You Sick?

Can Too Much Exercise Make You Sick?

29 January 2024

You’re in great shape, so why do you keep getting ill? You could be suffering from Post Exercise Immunosuppression (PEIS), where hard training knocks your immune system.

We are all very aware of the benefits of moderate exercise. Research has found a link between moderate exercise and a stronger immune system. Being physically active gives you that healthy glow and unmistakable va-va-voom that you just can’t get any other way. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves your mood, strengthens your bones and reduces the risk of some cancers. Also, there’s no arguing that exercise can help most people to lose weight. The kicker? Studies have found an increased risk of illness in those who participate in intensive exercise.

These contradictory findings leave many athletes wondering whether their training helps, or harms their immune function. Much of the research investigating the connection between arduous training and the immune system is relatively new and quite controversial. Most of the data support a positive relationship between exercise and the changes to the immune system. But the “dose” does matter.

Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the session. Studies suggest that repeated bouts of strenuous exercise have been associated with suppressed immune function and increased symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Repeated, high-intensity exercise lasting over 2 hours – when stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are increased – can compromise the immune system. So yes, running a marathon can overstress your immune system, which can temporarily impair its ability to do its job and leave you more vulnerable during this time. But more research is needed.

Although researchers seem to agree that there is a link between certain types of infections (especially upper respiratory tract infections) and intensive training, other factors play a role in whether or not an athlete gets sick. We’re talking transmittable diseases amongst competitors, common source exposure, and airborne droplets.

The good news is that you can power past PEIS while also smashing your training goals. A balanced wholefood diet is what’s needed. Go big on vegetables for great antioxidizing and alkalizing benefits. Leafy greens and bright berries are superfoods to take immune boosting to the next level. Harness the power of maca, mushrooms and spirulina to enhance immune performance.
Mucus and saliva are two of the body’s best natural barriers against infection, but both perform badly when dehydrated. So, continuously hydrate with water.

So, to avoid a workout induced case of the sniffles: don’t overtrain, and don’t under eat.

Take a look at factors that cause immune suppression (long, high-intensity workouts with inadequate recovery), and do the opposite. Go for shorter workouts, less often, and make sure you’re recovering in between.

Bottom line: Listen to your body. Some is good, more is not always better, and too much is bad.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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