“Boosting Your Flu Shot Response with Exercise” by Gretchen Reynolds for the New York Times WELL blog in January 2013 presents the results of several studies that indicate exercise may help increase production of protective antibodies stimulated by the influenza vaccine.
Being physically fit in general has shown to have this effect, and the article describes one study performed with older sedentary adults as research subjects. Other research looked at the effect of 90 minutes of exercise, about 15 minutes after vaccination, on antibody response. A follow-up study exercised mice and determined that too much or too little physical activity would not be as effective as the 90-minute dose of moderate level exercise. Prior to inoculation, work with weights had a positive effect on increasing vaccination-related antibody levels in a fourth study that was explained in the article.
The author cautioned her readers nearly 4 years ago that “data about exercise and flu vaccines is incomplete. It is not clear, for instance, whether there is any advantage to exercising before the shot instead of afterward, or vice versa; or whether doing both might provoke the greatest response – or, alternatively, be too much and weaken response.”
Reynolds quotes one lead researcher of these studies as saying that, “the BEST course of action is to get a flu shot, since any degree of protection is better than none, and, if you can, also schedule a visit to the gym that same day.” The same researcher advises that at the very least, “spending 90 minutes on a stationary bike will make any small twinges in your arm from the shot itself seem pretty insignificant.”
A more recent August 2016 META-ANALYSIS (a re-analysis of a number of other research study findings) of 6 research trials that included a total of 599 participants, conducted between 2007 and 2014, did not show benefit or harm from exercising before influenza vaccination. However, the meta-analysis also concluded that DATA generated by these studies “were limited and of LOW QUALITY.”
Pretty much the quoted researcher still gives the best ADVICE: receive your vaccination and if you wish, take the bet that 90 MINUTES OF MODERATE EXERCISE might help better protect you with higher protective antibodies.
Personally, spending 90 minutes exercising seems like a fairly big commitment on a day that time must be also be carved out for receiving the vaccination. It will take planning. But being forewarned is being forearmed according to the old motto ("Forewarned, forearmed" or "Praemonitus, praemunitus"). Next year I'll be prepared.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
New! Search Box
Earned Runs is now searchable! Check it out...