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Exercise & Immunity for Older Adults

Posted on January 8th 2021 by

Exercise & Immunity for Older Adults

LED is here to support you online whilst our centres are closed. In this 4-part blog series, Barnaby will be outlining how physical activity and good nutrition can support a healthy immune system whilst providing you with guidance on how to stay active during lockdown and how LED can support you online. Let’s start by introducing you to Barnaby.

My name is Barnaby, I have a BSc. And MSc. In nutrition and I’m a qualified PT. I’ve previously worked with LED members at Ottery St Mary, Sidmouth and Seaton and now work as digital marketing  coordinator for LED.

During my time at Loughborough University I studied immunology under Dr Nicolette Bishop where I learnt how exercise and nutrition can impact our immune systems and risk of infections. There’s never been a better time for me to share this information with you.

If you’d like to contact me for further information, please email me at

The Benefits of Physical Activity or Exercise

Physical activity or exercise is not just sprinting on a treadmill or lifting tonnes on weight machines, in can be as simple as taking a short daily dog walk, dancing like no-one is watching or standing whilst doing your ironing. There are of course many immediate and long-term health benefits of exercise, including:

  • Reduced risk of chronic disease – Regular exercise can improve cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength as well as bone and joint health. In contrast, an inactive lifestyle is a key cause of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and dementia.
  • Improved body composition – An active lifestyle will burn more calories helping to maintain weight loss or prevent excess weight gain.
  • Good mental health – Regular exercise can help reduce daily stress and improve low moods. Research has also show that an active lifestyle can lower the risk of depression by up to 30%.

In this blog I will be focusing on how exercise can help improve immune system function. In the current UK national lockdown there is no better time to focus on simple changes that can improve our immune system.

Exercise & Immunity

Throughout my study of immunology at Loughborough ‘Lettie would frequently refer to “the J shaped curve” to show the relationship between exercise and “Upper respiratory Tract Infections”. URTIs are bacterial or viral infections of the throat, nose etc.


The J shaped curve is a pretty simple graph. It shows that those who are sedentary have an average risk of infection, whilst those who are moderately active have a below average risk of infection. The curve also shows that those who are very highly active have an above average risk of infection. Don’t worry, people in this category exercise vigorously multiple times a day and so are far more active than you and I (think elite athletes and Olympians preparing for Tokyo 2021).

The key point is that there is plentiful evidence demonstrating that even small increase in physical activity will greatly decrease the risk of infections. But how much should we do?

In the interest of not spreading “fake news” to my knowledge this same model has not been demonstrated specifically with Covid-19, however there is a good line of reasoning to suggest an active, yet social distanced, lifestyle may help reduce the likelihood of reducing infection from Covid-19.

Exercise Guidelines for Older Adults

I imagine some readers may have been mostly sedentary whilst shielding because of Covid-19. To these readers going outside for a walk may seem very daunting. Having only seen my grandparents through their living room window for nearly a year I can really understand your apprehensions, but I want to assure you that you can make simple changes at home to be more active.

I recommend trying to do some form of light activity every day. It does not really matter what exercise you do as long as it is safe, enjoyable and gets you moving. This could be something simple as walking around the house or garden your own pace, keeping on top of household chores and making sure to stand up often throughout the day.

Many more of our readers may have already returned to LED sites between July 2020– January 2021 for their regular swim, gym session, class or court booking. I urge these readers to keep that momentum going and follow NHS guidelines which suggest you should try to do some form of physical activity every day. The NHS provide further exercise guidelines found below:

  • Strength, balance and flexibility – Aim to include activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on at least 2 days a week. Les Mills Bodybalance, yoga or pilates classes are great examples of such activities that are free to LED members which can be performed from the safety and comfort of your living room. Minimal equipment is required other than exercise mat and comfortable clothes.
  • 150 minutes of moderate activity a week – 20 minutes a day of brisk walking, riding a bike or dancing like no one is watching should be enough to raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer.
  • 75 minutes of vigorous active a week – 15 minutes of jogging or any other activity that makes you breathe hard and fast a day Monday – Friday is perfect if you can manage this safely.

Please remember to consult your GP and read our Health Commitment Statement before participating in exercise.

How LED can support you

As long as national lockdown restrictions apply LED are committed to supporting our members physical and mental wellbeing. To find out more about what we have in place to support you online click here.

Our team have put together a comprehensive live streaming programme so you can join real LED instructors for online fitness classes from your smart phone or tablet. Our live streamed classes include everything from Old Skool Aerobics to Bodybalance providing plenty of classes for you to try at home. To find out more click here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you now have a better understanding of how exercise and activity can improve your immune system, ideas of what you can safely do from home or outside and support LED are providing.

If you’d like to contact me for further information, please email me at

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