Washington: Mild-to moderate-intensity exercise for 90 minutes after getting a flu or COVID-19 vaccine may boost the levels of antibodies in the body, according to a study.
The findings, published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, could directly benefit people with a range of fitness levels.
Participants who cycled on a stationary bike or took a brisk walk for an hour-and-a-half after vaccination produced more antibodies in the following four weeks compared to those who did not exercise.
The researchers at Iowa State University in the US found similar results when they ran an experiment with mice and treadmills.
“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 professor Marian Kohut from Iowa State University.
A total of 36 individuals that received the Pfizer vaccine between March 2021-June 2021 were enrolled in the study. 28 participants were enrolled in the trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine experiment.
Nearly half of the participants in the experiment had a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese category.
During 90 minutes of exercise, they focused on maintaining a pace that kept their heart rate around 120 140 beats per minute rather than distance.
The 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 there may be multiple reasons why prolonged, mild- to moderate-exercise could improve the body’s immune response.
Working out increases blood and lymph flow, which helps circulate immune cells, according to the researchers.
As these cells move around the body, they are more likely to detect something that is foreign, they said.
Data from the mouse experiment also suggested a type of protein produced during exercise helps generate virus-specific antibodies and T-cells, the study found.
“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,” said Kohut.
“So, there’s probably a combination of factors that contribute to the antibody response we found in our study,” the scientist added.
The researchers are continuing to track the antibody response in the participants six months post-immunisation and have launched another study that focuses on exercise’s effects on people who receive booster shots.
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