While most of us only think of our immune system when we are fighting off a common cold, your immune system helps all your organs to repair damage and stay in tip-top shape! For runners it is especially important to maintain a healthy immune system, as your immune system works torepair damaged muscle fibers and tendons and keeps your bones healthy!

Your body has many different types of immune cells, and each cell has different function. Recently The European Journal of Applied Physiology recently published an article that looked at the change in T-regulatory cells in marathon finishers. T-regulatory cells help regulate the activity of all other immune cells. 17 experienced marathon runners were used for this study.

Good samples were taken before a marathon, 1 hour post race and the following day. The researchers found the number of T regulatory cells was low 1 hour after racing a marathon but significantly higher the day after a marathon.

Why does this matter to you? Immune system suppression is very common during marathon training, especially in the last few weeks. Because these cells are working so hard to support your muscles, this is when “run down” can turn into full blown sickness. It is important to support your immune system with vitamins, a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and proper hydration.

The same principles stand true for the days after a race. Your immune system is working hard to repair the damage done, so don’t forget to give it what it needs!

Clifford, T., Wood, M.J., Stocks, P. et al. Eur J Appl Physiol (2017). doi:10.1007/s00421-017-3667-0

Lisbeth Hoyt, PT, DPT