There are 60,000 miles of hiking trails in the United States. A brisk walk will boost your mood, but it could also improve your body’s response to vaccination, and that’s worth talking about during flu season and a global pandemic.

What is Vaccination Response?

When you get a vaccine, your body responds by improving your immunity to the disease the vaccine prevents. So, while vaccines are important, vaccination response is equally essential.

Vaccination response is “a measure of integrated immune function elicited by antigen exposure and measured by antibody titer and/or cell-mediated response.

Aggregate alterations in vaccine response can affect the prevalence of severe cases and deaths, and thus vaccination programs themselves.

Behavioral alterations that improve vaccination response, like exercise, are fantastic because they can significantly affect immunity quickly and affordably.

Yes, a hike (or even walk) can make a difference.

Exercise and Vaccination Response

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about how exercise benefits your health.

“Physical activity improves the immune system in general, and as antibodies are an important part of the immune system, they too are impacted by increased activity,” said Tim Church, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., a national leader in exercise and obesity research and Chief Medical Officer at Naturally Slim. “A consistent, moderate exercise program is associated with improved immune function, which includes antibody formation.”

But that’s not all. Many studies are showing that regular exercise improves our response to vaccination. For example, in a 10-month randomized control trial, Woods and colleagues demonstrated that exercise produced better vaccination responses. In their study, cardiovascular exercise significantly increased seroprotection 24 weeks after vaccination in previously sedentary but healthy older adults.

Participants who received flexibility and balance training instead of cardiovascular exercise did not experience similar increases in seroprotection. Participants assigned to the cardiovascular exercise group performed 45-60 minutes of endurance exercise at 60-70% maximal oxygen uptake three times a week.

In another study, regular exercise improved response to novel antigens. Participants who had participated in ten months of cardiovascular training had better vaccination responses than those who did flexibility training, as evidenced by IgG1 and IgM concentrations after Keyhole limpet hemocyanin (K.L.H.) vaccination.

A growing body of literature supports the notion that “regular exercise improves immune function, which is reflected in greater antibody or cell-mediated responses to vaccination, especially in older adults.

Even a single bout of exercise, performed alongside vaccination, can improve our immune response after vaccination.

In one study, researchers compared the vaccination response of those who completed exercise (15 min resistance band task) or rest before receiving a pneumococcal vaccine and those who received a full dose or half dose of the vaccine. Exercise groups had more robust responses than control groups when collapsed against all doses. Still, when looking at only groups who received the full vaccination dose, vaccination responses were similar between control and exercise groups. Intriguingly, in groups that received a half dose of vaccine, five strains had better responses in the exercise group than the control group.

Future studies are likely to continue investigating the value of acute exercise as a supplement to be administered in conjunction with vaccination. Information about the amount and type of training will be especially useful when using physical activity as an adjuvant to vaccination among the elderly who can have reduced responses to vaccination alongside a decline in immune function.

Get Your Heart Rate Up. Go Hike!

It seems that habitual cardiovascular exercise has the most significant effect on vaccination response. But some movement is always better than none. So, make the most of hiking before the weather gets too cold, and afterward, consider getting your flu vaccine.