Exercising and vaccination: it’s a match

Studies correlate better responses to vaccines with physical activities

By Marianne Bechara

Many studies prove that exercising is essential for a better life. The practice of physical activities brings benefits such as fortifying the cardiovascular system, directing nutrients to the cells, preventing the risk of diseases, improving the health of the brain, and liberating hormones that are important to our well-being. But did you know that exercising also helps to increase the response of vaccines in the human body?

In Singapore, researchers from different institutions tested the reaction of the influenza vaccine in 56 elderly women (above 65 years old). When analyzing the results, the scientists noticed that the number of antibodies of the active females was greater than the ones corresponding to the other participants of the study. 

More health advantages were verified in the case of the first group. Among them, there is the efficient work of the macrophages, a part of the immune system responsible for annihilating viruses, bacteria, and other antigens.

According to the biologist Anis Larbi, one of the scientists who headed the research, it is probably the anti-inflammatory molecules – fortified by physical activities – that make the defense cells more receptive to the pathogens of the vaccine. “Altogether, our data are consistent with better immunological outcomes in those who are more physically active”, the study concludes.

Although this research was developed with a specific age group, there is evidence that other people benefit from exercising when it comes to vaccines. A study involving 133 young adults (with a mean age of 22 years), conducted by the Australian immunologist Kate Edwards and other experts, demonstrated that 15 minutes of physical activities right before the pneumococcal vaccine – which protects the body against bacteria related to pneumonia and meningitis – are able to enhance the effectiveness of the shot. The authors of the experiment reinforce that “changes induced by acute exercise prepare us [human beings] for challenge, including antigen challenge such as vaccination, producing a state of improved readiness”.

What about vaccination against Covid-19? Recently, an article called “Exercise after influenza or Covid-19 vaccination increases serum antibody without an increase in side effects”, written by researchers from the Iowa State University, displayed outcomes from a study conducted with 70 individuals, from 18 to 62 years old. Among its results, there is the indication that one hour and a half of exercises after the vaccination against influenza or Covid-19 – in this last case, with the Pfizer-BioNTech product – boosts the production of antibodies by the human organism.

The results of this study are preliminary, considering the researchers will test the premise with more participants, but these findings are already important discoveries for society and the scientific community. As the paper clarifies, the results “suggest that adults who exercise regularly may increase antibody response to influenza or Covid-19 vaccine by performing a single session of light – to moderate – intensity exercise post-immunization”.

While these and other findings have scientific and practical significance – since vaccines are an essential part of our reality –, consulting health professionals from time to time is also recommendable. These specialists, from physical educators to doctors, can guide each patient into a routine of exercises, establishing the type, the intensity, and the frequency of the activities. Depending on one’s conditions, certain practices might not be suitable, whereas others can become vital allies for a stronger immune system and for a happier life.


“Acute exercise enhancement of pneumococcal vaccination response: A randomised controlled trial of weaker and stronger immune response”:


“Benefits of Physical Activity”:


“Como os exercícios físicos fortalecem a ação das vacinas” (“How physical exercises fortify the action of vaccines”): 


“Exercise after influenza or Covid-19 vaccination increases serum antibody without an increase in side effects”:


“Exercise may enhance the effects of a Covid or flu shot”:


“Hallmarks of improved immunological responses in the vaccination of more physically active elderly females”:


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