New Study Finds Completing Exercise Post-Vaccine Bumps Up Antibodies

During 90 minutes of exercise, the participants focused on maintaining a pace that kept their heart race approximately 120-140 beats per minute rather than focusing on the distance.

Getting 90 minutes of mild- to moderate-intensity physical activity shortly following immunization for the flu or COVID-19 may offer an additional immune boost, according to investigators from Iowa State University.

The study authors evaluated individuals who exercised on a stationary bike or went for an hour-and-a-half walk after immunization generated more antibodies in the following 4 weeks compared to individuals who remained stationary or continued with their daily routine after being vaccinated. Similar results were noted when investigators conducted an experiment with mice and treadmills.

Because antibodies serve as the body’s “search and destroy” line of defense against viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, immunizations help the immune system learn how to identify specific antigens and respond to them in strengthening the body’s defenses.

“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 lead author of the paper Marian Kohut, kinesiology professor at Iowa State University, in a press release.

The research team noted that the findings could be a direct benefit for people with a range of fitness levels, because approximately half of those enrolled in the study had a BMI in the overweight or obese category. During 90 minutes of exercise, the participants focused on maintaining a pace that kept their heart race approximately 120-140 beats per minute rather than focusing on the distance.

Additionally, the researchers tested whether participants could get the same increase in antibodies with 45-minutes of exercising. They found that the shorter workout did not increase antibody levels, which is an area of interest for future studies that may look at the impact of 60 minutes of exercise.

Multiple reasons for the immune boost could be related to exercise and how it increases blood and lymph flow, helping to circulate immune cells, according to the study authors. Another possible reason for the boost is a type of protein produced during exercise that 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,” Kohut said in the press release.

REFERENCE

Exercise post-vaccine bumps up antibodies, new study finds. Iowa State University. February 11, 2022. Accessed February 15, 2022. https://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2022/02/11/exercise-vaccine