LISTEN LIVE: This American Life
LISTEN LIVE: This American Life


Why To Exercise Today: Perhaps Jumpstart Your Flu Shot

This article is more than 9 years old.
Flu shot

Darn. Wish I'd known this when I got mine. The New York Times reports today that exercise has long been known to improve immunity, but recently scientists have been looking at whether "a single, well-calibrated bout of exercise" could boost a flu shot's effects:

Researchers at Iowa State University in Ames recently had young, healthy volunteers, most of them college students, head out for a moderately paced 90-minute jog or bike ride 15 minutes after receiving their flu shot. Other volunteers sat quietly for 90 minutes after their shot. Then the researchers checked for blood levels of influenza antibodies a month later.

Those volunteers who had exercised after being inoculated, it turned out, exhibited “nearly double the antibody response” of the sedentary group, said Marian Kohut, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State who oversaw the study, which is being prepared for publication. They also had higher blood levels of certain immune system cells that help the body fight off infection.

Read the full piece for the ins and outs and caveats, of which there are many. At the very least, a researcher concludes, "spending 90 minutes on a stationary bike will make any small twinges in your arm from the shot itself seem pretty insignificant."

Hat-tip to Tom Anthony.

This program aired on January 16, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.