In a groundbreaking study, researchers from Harvard Medical School have shed light on how physical exercise bolsters the immune system. The team discovered that physical activity stimulates the activation of anti-inflammatory T cells, a mechanism that could have profound implications for human health, as the findings were published in the journal Science Immunology.
Known for its beneficial effects on digestive, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems, physical activity also positively impacts mood and aids in the treatment of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. The study compared muscle cell changes in mice that performed a single running exercise to those that ran regularly and to sedentary mice.
Exercise was found to cause micro-damage to muscles, triggering an inflammatory response that mobilizes Treg cells. These lymphocytes are capable of destroying foreign antigens, including cancer cells, viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Both regular and one-time runners were found to have this activation of T cells, unlike their sedentary counterparts.
This increased T-cell activity is associated with an enhanced ability of the immune system to eliminate antigens, thereby strengthening the body’s protection against various diseases. It underlines the importance of regular exercise in boosting the immune system, particularly in the winter season when upper respiratory tract infections are more common.