OK, we all know that running is good for us. And some of us may know that it can boost your immunity—when not overdone. That’s a pretty big deal these days. So, here’s the lowdown.
The good news. It’s well documented that runners training at a moderate level have fewer colds and other upper respiratory tract infections. Additionally, science tells us that regular running (not over-training) is associated with enhanced immune reactions to infection by boosting your body’s natural immune system, circulating protective cells through the body more quickly to attack bacteria and viruses. Also, the slight increase in body temperature during and after a run may actually work as a mild fever, which creates a hostile environment for bacteria and viruses.
Keeping things in check. The idea is to train at a level that stresses you physiologically, but not so much that you become over-trained and suppress normal immune function. You want the right balance of frequency, intensity and duration of running. If you overdo it, science tell us that you may be more likely to contract an upper respiratory tract infection.
This is especially well-documented in marathon training and racing. Studies show that there’s a window of up to 72 hours after a marathon or other long, hard efforts (more than 90 minutes) when your immune system is actually suppressed.
You can still train hard but stay within your limits.
Tips for recovery and keeping your immunity strong during training.
- Wash your hands. Use warm soapy water and minimize hand-to-eye and hand-to-nose contact.
- Make sure to stay adequately hydrated during and after running, whether through sports drinks or plain water. This has been shown help to help mitigate negative changes in blood immune cells and lower anti-inflammatory cytokine levels.
- Eat a whole-foods, healthy well-balanced diet. This is a whole other blog, but suffice to say, stay away from junk foods, eat your veggies, and keep it clean.
- Avoid large crowds at ALL times right now. Especially after a hard workout when you’re more susceptible to infections.
- Sleep is king. Again, the benefits of getting enough sleep could take up a blog by itself, but the simple fact is that when it comes to recovery, sleep is huge! Sleep disruption has been linked to lowered immunity as well as lower heat tolerance.
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