In the newly published on Monday, participants who cycled on a stationary bike or took a brisk walk for an hour-and-a-half after getting a jab produced more antibodies in the following four weeks compared to participants who sat or continued with their routine post-immunization. The researchers found similar results when they ran an experiment with mice and treadmills.
Antibodies are essentially the body’s “search-and-destroy” line of defense against viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Vaccines help the immune system learn how to identify something foreign and respond by bolstering the body´s defenses, including an increase in antibodies.
“Our preliminary results are the first to demonstrate a specific amount of time can enhance the body’s antibody response to the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine and two vaccines for influenza,” said Kinesiology Professor Marian Kohut, lead author of the paper published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
In the study, researchers also tested whether participants could get the same bump in antibodies with just 45-minutes of exercising. They found the shorter workout did not increase the participants´ antibody levels. Kohut said the research team may test whether 60 minutes is enough to generate a response in a follow-up study.
As to why prolonged, mild- to moderate-intensity exercise could improve the body’s immune response, Kohut said there may be multiple reasons. Working out increases blood and lymph flow, which helps circulate immune cells. As these cells move around the body, they’re more likely to detect something that’s foreign.
Data from the mouse experiment also suggested a type of protein (i.e., interferon alpha) produced during exercise helps generate virus-specific antibodies and T- cells.
“But a lot more research is needed to answer the why and how. There are so many changes that take place when we exercise – metabolic, biochemical, neuroendocrine, circulatory. So, there’s probably a combination of factors that contribute to the antibody response we found in our study,” said Kohut.