Exercise makes vaccines work better and produce fewer side effects

As 2021 progresses, it’s important to remember that exercise may improve your response to immunization and help maintain levels of protective immunity, especially at a time when vaccines are becoming increasingly popular.

There is robust evidence that cardiorespiratory exercise promotes a stronger vaccine response in older adults (de Araújo et al. 2015), resulting in more efficacious vaccination, with at least 8 studies in adults aged over 60 years (Pascoe et al. 2014). In younger people the effect of exercise is less pronounced, but a recent data analysis suggests physical activity benefits vaccine responses in adults younger than 60, too (Bohn-Goldbaum et al. 2021).

There is also evidence that a single, acute bout of exercise may boost vaccine response. Several studies have looked at the effect of brief (15 min) arm exercise just before the injection is given. Findings show that responses to those vaccines are often boosted, especially when the vaccine is not strong (Edwards et al. 2012).

It is also worth considering the additional benefits of exercise immediately prior to vaccination; exercise is a known analgesic and recent evidence suggests that pain at the site of a vaccination and subsequent vaccine reactions (tenderness, swelling, reduced appetite and feeling unwell) are decreased by exercise (Lee et al. 2018).

Jeff Schlicht, professor at Western Connecticut State University, decided to get the latest shingles vaccine three years ago. Unfortunately, after both shingles shots he developed flu-like symptoms that prompted him to spend the afternoon in bed.

Leery of experiencing those same symptoms again, when he went to his COVID-19 vaccination appointments he decided to try exercise to see if it would help and he brought a 4.5 kg (10-lb) dumbbell with him. The worst side effect he experienced was very modest tenderness at the injection site. So, while he can’t say that exercise definitively staved off more serious side effects, he can say his COVID-19 vaccination side-effects were much milder than the one he experienced with the shingles shots, where he did not exercise.

This is a single anecdote, not a scientific study. Still, even if exercise didn’t help, it didn’t make things worse, and it wasn’t a wasted effort. What is scientifically proven, however, is that exercise is one of the most effective disease prevention behaviors we can engage in. That’s why it’s important to follow the exercise guidelines recommended by groups like the World Health Organization and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Strength and Cardio Training tips from Garrett Kellar

Garrett Kellar, Assistant Professor & Program Director at Youngstown State University, suggests 3 simple but effective exercises for strength training: Overhead Press, Lateral Raises (to the side) and Front Raises. He also recommends using dumbbells, excellent exercise equipment that allows you to do endless variations of standing and floor exercises, and not stopping at the shoulders.

To meet the 2-day/week health requirement for resistance training, Professor Kellar suggests using your own body weight to your advantage as you think of ways to combine household tasks with extra movement. For example, you can lift your heels in front of the sink while washing dishes or do modified push-ups against the counter. If you have to stand up to do something, you can do sit-stands before you go to do it. Also, if you need to go upstairs, you can do step-ups on the first stair before heading up.

Cardiorespiratory exercise (Cardio)

All cardio is good cardio, regardless of how long your bout lasts, but you should aim for a total of 150 minutes a week. If you can exercise at a higher intensity, this provides more benefits in a shorter amount of time. An ideal exercise prescription includes progression; as your body adapts to an exercise challenge, increase the workload.

Treadmills and bikes are excellent tools for an effective cardio workout, at home or in the gym.
In addition, when the weather in good, walking outdoor is a great alternative.

We want to sit less and move more!” – Garrett Kellar

Exercise has mental health benefits

Segments of many global populations are apprehensive about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The idea of getting vaccinated can generate anxiety, but several studies have shown that there are many mental health benefits related to the vaccine. Before COVID-19 struck, older adults were known to be more isolated than others, with high rates of anxiety and depression. Once the pandemic began, people of all ages saw their family and friends less. This increased social isolation set the stage for greater rates of anxiety and depression for everyone. Fortunately, as stated in the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report, engaging in exercise decreases risk of depression and anxiety and treats their symptoms.

Moreover, with vaccination, there is the potential to safely be around loved ones again. In America, where COVID-19 vaccine rates are relatively high, the Centers for Disease Control has stated that "fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance." This provides the opportunity to be around people, especially others who are vaccinated, in a safe way. Engaging in physical activity together, such as going for a walk with another vaccinated person, is a way to reduce stress and improve mental health.

3 Useful Tips for Social Media Pull-Out

  • According to several studies, exercise may help your body produce more antibodies against COVID-19 when done just before your jab.
  • Exercise can help you control anxiety and depression.
  • Combining strength training with cardio on a regular basis is the best exercise prescription for everyone; people at risks for falls should also do balance training.

For a unique cardio experience, Technogym designed MyRun, the intelligent home treadmill that helps you improve your running experience and reach your objectives faster. Technogym MyRun is designed to meet the needs of the whole family and to offer customized running or walking programs suitable for users of all levels: from beginners to fitness lovers, to sports enthusiasts. MyRun also offers real time biofeedback on cadence and stride width, comparing them to goal-oriented reference values in order to perfect running technique. By simply placing your tablet on the MyRun console, you will be able to choose your favorite trainer from the comprehensive library of on-demand content that offers engaging one-to-one guided sessions, training routines for athletic performance, tailor-made workouts and virtual paths set in nature or in your favorite city. With MyRun, you can also add the bodyweight exercises for muscle strengthening to your cardio workout, from the comfort of your tablet, the virtual trainer will guide you through, exercise after exercise.

Discover Technogym MyRun

For a complete and effective strength workout, Technogym created Technogym Bench, the innovative, functional and strength training station for your home, designed to combine maximum exercise variety with minimum footprint by enabling you to perform the largest range of exercises in a very limited space, thanks to its innovative design and enclosed tools. Compact and easy to move, Technogym Bench is the perfect solution for any environment.
With over 200 exercise options, Technogym Bench allows the possibility to combine weights, elastic bands, dumbbells, weighted knuckles, and a training mat to empower you to perform endless exercises ensuring various and effective total body workouts.
With Technogym Bench you can also get inspired by included video workout programmes, in fact the all-in-one station includes access to a vast library of 20 to 30 minutes video workouts led by Technogym expert trainers suitable for any type of goal and level to train strength, resistance and core.
Kate Edwards, University of Sydney

Jeff Schlicht, Western Connecticut State University

Garrett Kellar, Youngstown State University

David X. Marquez, University of Illinois at Chicago

de Araújo AL, Silva LC, Fernandes JR, Matias Mde S, Boas LS, Machado CM, Garcez-Leme LE, Benard G. Elderly men with moderate and intense training lifestyle present sustained higher antibody responses to influenza vaccineAge [Dordr]. 2015 Dec;37[6]:105. doi: 10.1007/s11357-015-9843-4.

Pascoe AR, Fiatarone Singh MA, Edwards KM. The effects of exercise on vaccination responses: a review of chronic and acute exercise interventions in humans. Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Jul;39:33-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.10.003.

Bohn-Goldbaum E, Owen KB, Lee VY, Booy R, Edwards KM. Physical activity and exercise benefit influenza vaccination response. An individual participant data meta-analysis. Personal communication.

Edwards KM, Pung MA, Tomfohr LM, Ziegler MG, Campbell JP, Drayson MT, Mills PJ. Acute exercise enhancement of pneumococcal vaccination response: a randomised controlled trial of weaker and stronger immune response. Vaccine. 2012;30[45]:6389-95. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.08.022.

Lee VY, Booy R, Skinner SR, Fong J, Edwards KM. The effect of exercise on local and systemic adverse reactions after vaccinations - Outcomes of two randomized controlled trials. Vaccine. 2018 Nov 12;36[46]:6995-7002. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.09.067.

Bogart LM, Ojikutu BO, Tyagi K, Klein DJ, Mutchler MG, Dong L, Lawrence SJ, Thomas DR, Kellman S. COVID-19 Related Medical Mistrust, Health Impacts, and Potential Vaccine Hesitancy Among Black Americans Living With HIV. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2021 Feb 1;86(2):200-207. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000002570. PMID: 33196555; PMCID: PMC7808278.

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