Sports, Food and Immune System

Today it is widely documented that physical activity has an effect on our immune system and the nature of this effect depends on the level of intensity of the sport.

It is generally agreed that prolonged periods of intensive training could lower our defences while a regular and moderate exercise may have, on the contrary, a beneficial effect.

In particular, during competitions or in periods of intense training, professional athletes often show symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections: the lowering of their defences could indeed expose them to a greater risk of contracting diseases such as colds and flu.

On the other hand, moderate intensity physical activity regimens turned out to be “immune-reinforcing” and proved their effectiveness, for example, in increasing the vaccine response of the so-called “patients at risk”.

The defences reinforcing effect generated by a regular and moderate practice of sport can be due to several causes, including a general reduction of the inflammation and alleviation of psychological stress, with effects – positive and proven – on different parameters of the state of health of particularly vulnerable individuals such as the elderly, obese or suffering from chronic infections.

A key tip for a physical activity that helps the proper functioning of our immune system is thus to avoid the do-it-yourself attitude and rely instead on certified professionals, who will be able to adjust the workout according to your individual needs.

A sportsman must also follow a balanced diet, which enables him to adequately cover his energy and nutrition requirements, which – depending on the physical activity practiced – might also be significantly increased compared to a more sedentary lifestyle.

On one hand, this will allow the sportsman to avoid deficiencies known as potential causes of immune dysfunction, and on the other to have an adequate intake of minerals – such as iron and zinc – and vitamins – such as A, D, B6 and B12 – which are important to maintain the health of our immune functions.

In a recent article published last February on the medical-scientific journal Immunology & Cell Biology, the author Michael Gleeson, Professor of Biochemistry of Sport at Loughborough University (UK), states in particular that “the best chance of success especially for people prone to diseases, is represented by the ingestion of carbohydrates during exercise and daily assumption of vitamin D3, probiotics and polyphenols”.