Boost Your Immune System During Flu Season With These 7 Workouts

You probably already know that exercise has an overall health-boosting effect on your body, but you may not know exactly how. One way working out makes you healthier is by boosting your immune system, or the system in your body that helps fight off the cold, flu, COVID-19 and any other nasty virus floating around out there. Adults typically get two to four colds a year, according to the American Lung Association, primarily in the winter months, so doing what you can to boost your immune system isn’t a bad idea. Check out the best exercises for immune system support.

7 best workouts to boost your immune system

Studies have shown that exercise can increase the number of white blood cells in your system, which can, in turn, boost your immune function. Here are a few workouts to keep in your back pocket during cold and flu season.


As one form of aerobic exercise, brisk walking helps activate different types of immune cells. According to Harvard Medical School, one study found that people who walked for at least 20 minutes a day, five days a week took 43% fewer sick days than people who exercised once a week or less. The walkers also had milder symptoms of illness. 

There’s not necessarily a hard and fast rule for how much to walk, but a 20- to 30-minute brisk walk can certainly be helpful. Consider making an effort to walk every day, even if it’s at a leisurely pace.

Pilates student and instructor practicing a movement in class.Pilates student and instructor practicing a movement in class. Thomas Barwick/Getty Images


The way Pilates can help your immune system is twofold. Like any other exercise, Pilates can get your heart rate up and help your body produce immune cells. But another way to look at it is that this workout, like yoga, engages your mind and weaves in meditation and breathwork. That means it can potentially lower your stress levels. Stress reduces the immune cells that help fight viruses, among other effects on your immune health, according to the University of Maryland Medical System. By managing your stress, you help your immune system to stay strong and fight off illnesses. 

If you want to add Pilates to your workout routine, you can do it a few times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, depending on what other workouts you’re doing. It’s a great way to mix cardio and bodyweight exercises.

High-intensity interval training 

With high-intensity interval training, you have to be a little bit careful. Generally speaking, HIIT should help with immune function as long as you’re giving your body ample time to rest. Studies have shown that intense exercise done too often and without breaks can be a detriment to your immune system. Moderate exercise, on the other hand, helps increase your immune cell production. With HIIT, you’re doing small bursts of intense training, so you can still reap the benefits of exercise for immune function without dipping a toe into the negative territory. 

Similarly to cardio, you can aim to do HIIT a few times a week for up to 30 minutes at a time, depending on the circuits you’re doing. You can also incorporate HIIT into a larger workout plan so you’re not doing too much intense exercise and wreaking havoc on your body.

Strength training 

Strength training — whether it’s weight lifting or other resistance-based exercises — goes hand in hand with cardio for a total-body workout. It’s also a great way to support your immune system. One study showed that in just a single strength-training session, a body produced and released myokines necessary for immune function. It also altered the number of white blood cells in the system in a positive way. 

Strength training is best for your health when paired with cardio. Aiming to do cardio five days a week and strength training at least two times a week will give you the benefits of these exercises. Cardio and strength training, when done in tandem, will give you improved results of the other (cardio will give you the endurance for strength training, and strength training will improve your muscles for cardio). 

A group of people of different genders and sizes doing yoga.A group of people of different genders and sizes doing yoga. Luis Alvarez/Getty Images


There are a few ways that yoga can improve your immune system. One systematic review of studies found that a yoga practice can boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Inflammation and immune function often go hand in hand. Yoga can also reduce stress and help with blood flow, thanks to the stretching and breathing that you’re engaging in, both of which are healthy for your immune system. 

As for how often to practice yoga to help your immune system, studies have examined varying amounts, but a 30-minute yoga practice a few times a week should suffice. Most studies looked at Hatha yoga.


Aerobic exercise — any of those cardio exercises that get your heart rate up — is a good go-to for boosting your immune system by increasing your white cell count. Plenty of exercises fall into this bucket, including running, biking, swimming, dancing and more. 

If you want to have the optimal amount of aerobic exercise in your routine, the Centers for Disease Control recommends 150 minutes a week. You could easily break that down into 30-minute workouts five days a week.


Jumping on your little trampoline is more than just a fun way to pass the time. Rebounding is actually a great workout: It’s a form of aerobic exercise, and it may stimulate the lymph nodes into doing their job and moving fluid around. Your lymphatic system, in turn, is part of the immune system’s function, so when the lymphatic system is working at optimal conditions, your immune system, in theory, is as well. 

If you want to use your rebounder to help your immune system, there’s no go-to rule for usage, but try putting your rebounder in front of the TV and jump on and off while you’re watching your shows. This is an easy enough exercise that you probably won’t go overboard. All you have to do is jump up and down lightly — just bounce.

Feet standing on a small trampoline in fitness class.Feet standing on a small trampoline in fitness class. Pavel1964/Getty Images

How does exercise help boost your immune system? 

Working out has been proven to help your overall health, and with it, your immune system. Studies have shown that working out at a moderate level — not high-intensity all the time — has the best effect on your immune system, as it supports the production of white blood cells and overall good health. According to Medline Plus, exercise might even help flush bacteria and prevent it from growing in the first place by raising your body temperature. Plus, exercise is just good for your body in general, and when your overall health is in a good place, you’re less likely to get sick. Exercise helps you sleep better, it reduces stress, and it can even reduce inflammation. All of these things contribute to a better-functioning immune system. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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