I had the opportunity to speak with David Nieman Ph.D., director of the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University, a pioneer in exercise immunology research, as part of my reporting for a quiz on how to know if you’re too sick to work out. This nugget didn’t make it into the final version, but I find his research and the field in general particularly interesting, not only as a journalist, but also as an athlete, as someone who hates getting sick, and as someone who believes exercise is basically the best medicine.
“Exercise recruits important immune cells out of the lungs, bone marrow, spleen and other places into the blood. Like I’ve told other people, these are like the marine corps of the immune system. Exercise takes the marine corps out of their base camps to circulate around, contact the enemy, and then multiply and send out chemicals to deal with and kill the enemy. It gets the immune cells circulating at a higher rate than normal. Within three hours, the cells are back to their base camps. You go out [for a run] the next day, they roam around, they go back, you do that day after day — it’s just like if you have a housekeeper come into your house for 30 minutes a day. It’ll look a lot better at the end of the month than if they never came in at all. It helps the immune system in what we call immune surveillance, the ability of the immune system to detect and kill bacteria.”
Check out the whole story at The Huffington Post: QUIZ: Should You Exercise When Sick?