Exercise & Immunity During Winter


We all know the positive effects exercise can have on both our physical and mental well-being but during the cooler months, we often get asked the question “can exercise boost our immune function and improve our chances in resisting the flu or the common cold”?


Exercise plays a powerful role in maintaining good heart, lung, bone, muscular and metabolic health. It also helps in the management and prevention of a number of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis. Exercise can also contribute in a major way in managing mental health and mood, which is of utmost importance right now. The way exercise works as a mood and mental health enhancer is through increased secretion of endorphins or “feel good hormones” such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Equally important, if you get your exercise prescription right, exercise can also suppress the secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol which might be why you usually finish a workout feeling more upbeat and ready to take on the world.


There has been much research and debate over recent times regarding the effect of exercise and if it can enhance immune function and reduce the risk of contracting transmittable or infectious. This is certainly still an ongoing area of research however recent studies have shown that acute bouts or moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise can lead to increased secretion and increased recruitment of a number or proteins and substances which are involved with enhancing metabolic health and immune activity.

Engaging in regular exercise during the short term, but more importantly over your lifespan, can also help too slow the immune function decline along with the changes that can occur with ageing, therefore reducing the risk of infections as we start to get older.


So, how much exercise should you be doing?

The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend adults engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week. Examples of moderate intensity physical activity can include a light weights session, brisk walking on the treadmill or elliptical, golf, dancing, bike riding, Pilates, yoga or even just household chores such as vacuuming or gardening. Some examples of vigorous intensity exercise can include heavier strength training, running at higher intensity, group fitness classes, bike riding at a greater speed, HIIT type workouts and spin classes. When it comes to strength training, it is our recommendation that you get to the gym at least twice a week along with aiming to frequently break up inactive time at work or at home, limiting that time of inactivity to to no more than one hour at a time.


It is certainly harder to find motivation to exercise in the colder months and it’s not uncommon to see more people hitting the snooze button and skipping that morning run, group fitness class or gym strength session.

Here are a few tips to help keep you accountable and stop you from becoming a casualty to the winter and Covid-19 exercise lull!

  1. Enlist social support. Set a time with a friend to go for that morning group fitness class or gym strength session! Or, consider some personal training. Not only does it keep you accountable, but it may also make your exercise much more enjoyable, effective and it’s often a very efficient use of time!
  2. Be realistic with expectations. There is no point making yourself get up and out of bed at 6am if you’re not a morning person, find the time of day that works for you and you’ll be more likely to stick to it!
  3. Factor it in. Make an “appointment with yourself”. Set a time in your diary every day to attend that fitness, health and wellbeing appointment, as you would any other regular appointment. Now you’ll need to stand firm with this one and communicate with your family and work community the importance of this appointment in your daily schedule.
  4. Think back to WHY? Link back to your goals and why it’s important for you to be physically active? You may just find it sparks a little more motivation to do your workout!
  5. Active wear Find yourself warm, lightweight, yet breathable clothing and layer up. Not only will it keep you warm in the beginning of your workout, it will also make it much easier to move around and prevent overheating or holding too much moisture which can lead to those post exercise chills. Also, by layering up, you can gradually drop the layers as you warm up. As you cool down, the layers can go back on.
  6. Ensure you warm up. Every time you exercise you should engage in a thorough warm up. This is even more important in the cooler months to slowly warm the body, increase range of motion, activation and to reduce stiffness in the muscles along with helping to prevent any injuries occurring.


It’s time to start getting active. The benefits are wide and varied so get out there and improve your health and immunity through fitness.

If you need advice or support, the F1rst Class Fitness team are here to support you.